Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Got a taste for reality TV? Soon you’ll have the opportunity to watch – and cheer for – an Irving resident as he battles the competition on ‘Sweet Genius’, a Food Network presentation.
Joe Baker and his wife Blair, who was raised in Carrollton, have lived in Valley Ranch for about a year. He teaches locally at Cordon Bleu, specializing in desserts. Being a pastry chef is his lifelong dream come true.
“I spent my childhood cooking with my parents and my grandparents,” Baker said. “I was always drawn to the elegant pastries that surrounded holidays.
“When I was very young, eight or nine, I was always experimenting with food creations that were well beyond my skill level.
“As an adult, I never gave up that love of pastries, so I kept pursuing it.”
He has also worked as a sous chef, but it’s pastries that push his buttons.
“I’m enamored of the challenge,” he said. “The specificity of every single movement we make…I think I’m lucky to do something I love.”
Raised in Montana, Baker grew up on game and seasonal ingredients, with a healthy respect for freezing, canning and pickling. It gave him an appreciation for using every ingredient wisely and with care.
A stint in the military only underscored that attention to detail, which he furthered by attending L’Academie de Cuisine.
“I remember the day I stopped being a regular cook and realized I was someone who was on the path,” he said. “I got this amazing job straight out of school and frankly, I wasn’t qualified for it. I was working with another guy, more seasoned – he’d been there a year or so, plus a lot of other places – and we were working on this one banana dessert. I was just hacking at that banana because I was in a rush, unfocused – almost in a panic.
“He looked at me and told me to throw everything away. He was concerned that if I didn’t care about that banana, I might not care about anything I had done that day. It really had an impact on me – to always do it right. To care about everything I prepare.”
Being in Dallas is also part of his dream come true.
“I think honestly North Texas should be a stronger food scene,” Baker said. “We should be on par with New York, New Orleans or L.A.
“We have a particular cuisine here. I love grapefruit and pecans – they’re both a part of our rich, Texas heritage. The wonderful produce that’s available year round – I couldn’t ask for a better place to be right now.”
Baker can’t say what his dessert challenges will be on the show, but the Food Channel has provided a tantalizing teaser: the chefs get a fruity cereal as their mandatory ingredient in the first test. The second test? Candy confections from a strawberry drink and a yellow pepper.
“Based on the show’s charismatic nature, I expect I’ll need to pay close attention,” said Baker. “We [four contestants] will all just be reacting to whatever surprise they present us with.
“I have never won a single competition before. It’s almost a running joke with me and my friends – that someday I might actually win something.”
What’s next? Baker will keep teaching, and he is working with Dallas restaurateur John Tesar to create a dessert menu for Tesar’s forthcoming restaurant ‘Spoon’. Maybe he’ll seek out more experience in front of a camera.
“I had never cooked on a set before,” said Baker. “I saw room for improvement.”
The season premier of Food Genius is Oct. 18 at 9 p.m.
Some information provided by the Food Channel.
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:04
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes, will bring the holiday spirit to Dallas/Fort Worth audiences like never before. In this multi-faceted production, the Rockettes will dance their way through new scenes, an array of costumes and dramatic lighting effects
“We are thrilled to return to Dallas/Fort Worth at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie with an all new edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” said Don Simpson, executive vice president of productions, MSG Entertainment. “With new technological enhancements and show-stopping performance elements, the 2012 production offers a truly immersive experience like nothing Dallas/Fort Worth audiences have ever seen before. Returning audiences will be amazed by the transformation of the Christmas Spectacular, and new fans will not want to miss this show.”
Two Rockettes, Addie Elsbecker and Laura Danelski traveled to the DFW area last week to help announce the upcoming show.
“I am especially happy to be in Texas, because this is my home state. I am so excited to be performing for all my family and friends,” said Elsbecker, who is from Dallas.
“We were here in 2009, and we are coming back with a new show for everyone to enjoy. This year we will have a 50 foot LED screen that is new. There is a double decker-bus that the Rockettes ride on. The show takes you through Times Square and it really feels like you are in New York City.”
Young dancers need to learn as much as they can in their dance lessons if they hope to one day become Rockettes, according to Danelski.
“To become a Rockette, dancers must be proficient in tap, jazz and ballet. So for all those little girls who are out there dancing, just stay in your classes and take as many forms of dance as you can,” Danelski said. “Young ladies must be at least 18 years old to audition for the Rockettes, and they have to be between 5’6” and 5’10.5” tall. We put our taller women in the center and the shorter ones on the ends, which creates the illusion that we are all one height.
“The greatest thing about being a Rockette is dancing with these amazing women. In the Radio City Music Spectacular, there is no one single star. All of the Rockettes are equal, and we work together as a team to create the show. Where you are standing on stage is based solely on how tall you are, so we really bond over the three months that we work together. We are inches from each other on stages, and we are in the dressing rooms together. So I can honestly say that the women who are in this show are like my family.”
“Being a Rockette, you build relationships for a life time,” Elsbecker added. “You will see a Rockette a year after working together, and it is just like you have never missed a beat.”
The Christmas Spectacular will run at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie from Nov. 23 – Dec. 8.
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:04
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Six lovely and accomplished women ‘of a certain age’ competed for the title of Ms. Mature Irving 2012 on Oct. 5. And in this, the 30th year of the pageant, taking the title was no easy victory.
Claiming the crown was Kay Frances Waters who said she was participating because, “I am outgoing and young at heart, and I want to represent Irving.”
Jo Dee Reinig won the First Runner Up title, and Patricia Louise Petell was named Ms. Congeniality. Other contestants were Jane W. Smith, Gayre Fay King and Josephine Dunn.
To open the pageantry, Italianate scenery adorned the stage of Irving Arts Center’s Carpenter Hall as several past Ms. Mature Irving winners danced gracefully in the piece ‘Golden Venus’ choreographed by Dolly Salas. Later in the program the I Colori Italian Dance Group showed verve and energy, their steps and costumes displaying their pride of heritage.
Ms. Mature Irving 2011, Mary Little, was cheered as she repeated her winning performance of a workout routine in a rap style. And 90-year old Vivian Kleinwachter, Ms. Mature Irving 1990 was on hand to perform, most unexpectedly, on roller skates.
But it was the talents and composure of this year’s competitors that truly distinguished the event. Jane Smith quietly recited a poem she had written for her father, with great poignancy. Patricia (“Trish’) Petell brought new life to Kool and the Gang’s hit ‘Celebrate’ as she danced original choreography. Gayre Fay King showed her kicky country side, dancing to Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine To Five’, complete with stage props and lip synch. Attired in an attractive muu-muu, Josephine Dunn interpreted the grace and significance of hula dancing to ‘Blue Hawai’i’. And Jo Dee Reinig had the crowd in stitches as she told the story of all the famous people she had accidentally met. Think ‘Andy Griffith’ but in a skirt.
Winner Kay Frances Waters was a crowd favorite, displaying a voice of great warmth, quality and accuracy as she sang ‘What the World Needs Now’, a capella.
And no pageant would be complete without a glittering lineup of dignitaries and special guests. The Supervisor of the Heritage Senior Center, Ann Gillespie, played a key role in announcing the judges and judging criteria. Ms. Senior Texas Classic 2012, Nancy Bolton, narrated the formalwear competition and Coucilman Michael Gallaway honored contestants past and present.
Doug McAlister was on hand as emcee and also performed, while the Russ Dorsey Band kept the evening moving at a lively pace. Refreshments were provided by students in the culinary program of Irving’s Jack Singley Academy.
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:19
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
Boy Scout supporters of the Circle 10 Council gathered to raise money for the 100-year-old organization at a fundraiser on Sep. 2 in Dallas.
“Our schools do a great job of preparing our kids,” Don Herring, district committee member, told attendees. “But they’re missing out on leadership skills and moral foundation. They can get that through Boy Scouts.
“We can help give every kid every possible opportunity to get that education when we give. The only way we can keep doing this is by people contributing.”
Of $128,000 in needs, the district has already raised about $115,000 excluding what was raised Tuesday night, Gary Garza, scout executive for the Five Trails District, said.
State Representative Linda Harper-Brown also attended the Dallas fundraiser.
“It’s an honor for me to be here,” Harper-Brown said. “You can see the importance of this program and the future it provides.
“I truly believe the Boy Scouts will be on the front of that future. Thank you for opening your wallets and your hearts because the Boy Scouts do a great deal of good.”
Some Boy Scouts from the Five Trails District also attended the event, showing off a pinewood derby track. The scouts also led the group in the pledge of allegiance before the fundraiser.
The Five Trails District of Circle 10 Council serves Irving and Coppell and includes cub scout packs for boys in first through fifth grades, troops for boys ages 11 to 18, and Venture Crews for boy and girls ages 14 to 21.
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:17
Written by Phil Cerroni
‘We woke up on 9/12 and we were still Americans’
By Elaine Paniszczyn
During National Aviation Week, Heather ‘Lucky’ Penney spoke to members of the North Texas Commission about her experiences as one of the first combat pilots in the air on 9/11 at the group’s annual luncheon at Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas Sep. 20.
“Airplanes have a soul…and their story is our story,” Penney said. “We are all the legacy of someone who went before us, and more importantly each of us will leave a legacy for those who come after us. For the decade after 9/11, I did not talk about my experience. I really didn’t feel like I had a story to tell. I was just the wingman.
“Like Pearl Harbor, we all have stories of 9/11 … another day that will live in infamy,” Penney said. “From my perspective, there really wasn’t anything special about my experience, especially after all the 24/7 news coverage that followed. So, I remained silent. For all of those who lost their lives, gave their lives, and lost loved ones, I am compelled today to still hold that experience sacred.”
Penney said on the 10 year commemoration of 9/11 she was asked by her flight commander to participate with him in a National Geographic special. She agreed to do it for him. However, she said in the process of telling the story, others were so moved, that she began to realize that her story of 9/11 really is not her story; it is everybody else’s.
“It belongs to all of us,” Penney said.
Her squadron had just gotten back from Red Flag that previous Saturday where they had been deployed for two weeks at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. They just had a skeleton crew and only had three aircraft to put up the morning of 9/11.
“We were cleaning off the jets, and we were going to make them slick, and we were going to go out and do some dogfighting,” Penney said. “It was going to take maintenance crews a while to get that done, so we sent our boys, Lou Shooter Campbell, Eric Haagenson and Billy Hutcheson down to North Carolina.”
Later, she was sitting in a scheduling meeting when somebody knocked on the door and told them an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center.
“We looked at each other, and we looked outside,” Penney said. “It was a brilliant, crystal-blue morning, and we quizzically gazed across at each other, ‘How could that happen?’ We thought it was a Cessna. Those things bounce off buildings. So we went back to what we were talking about.”
It was not long until another knock at their door revealed another plane had flown into the other building at the World Trade Center.
“We saw what everyone else on that infamous day saw,” Penney said. “And our hearts stopped. What seemed like hours was really only seconds, because at that point in time, we knew what we had to do. The problem was: We couldn’t, because we had no authorization to get airborne.”
Her commanders started making phone calls “trying to push upwards rather than being pulled.”
Penney said the National Guard has two different chains of command. One is the federal chain of command. The other is the civilian chain of command for the D.C. National Guard, which goes up through the Secretary of the Army, to the Vice President, and to the President of the United States.
“Who, as you can imagine, at that time was kind of busy,” Penney said. “So we had no way to be able to get airborne.”
While the three jets in North Carolina were on their way home, the Pentagon was hit, and the FAA began to ground airplanes.
“One of the pilots called in and said that Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center had called asking if he had any missiles or bombs on board. He wanted to know what was going on. He added that the control center did not want to let him in the air space. He was told to not worry about that. ‘Just keep on coming home.’ The others were told to come in as fast as they could without using the afterburner.
“After the Pentagon got hit, that was when we finally had authorization to launch.”
‘Lucky, you’re with me,’ commanded Col. Marc Sasseville. He told the others to wait until they got missiles on board.
“I don’t know why he picked me,” Penney said. “I don’t know if it was because I was a good pilot or a bad one and therefore expendable.”
But the message was clear: The two pilots were not planning to come back – ever.
“Sasseville looked at me and said, ‘I’ll take the cockpit.’ I knew I was going to take the tail. We had seen what had happened, and it was important to minimize the collateral damage on the ground. By ramming the nose and tail of a hijacked plane, I knew the plane would go straight into the ground as opposed to fanning out and be spread.
“People have asked: ‘Who told you that you needed to ram the airplane?’ The fact is, no one did. We just knew what had to be done. We still didn’t have missiles on board. We’re in a training configuration.”
They each had 105 lead-nosed training bullets on board.
Master battery on…throttle up…Sasseville was already taxiing ahead of her as she yelled to her ground crew to pull the chocks.
“I had never been trained for this. As I moved forward, they are still pulling pins out of my gear. As I’m taxiing, I can hear Billy is getting ready to take off,” she said.
And the other planes returning from North Carolina were coming in. When they tried to get weather stats and other information they needed for landing, this is what they heard:
“This is Andrews Air Force Base, Information Bravo. Andrews Air Force Base is closed. Washington class Bravo airspace is closed. Any aircraft attempting to enter Washington class Bravo airspace will be shot down.”
One lands, and the other two were right behind him. They know there is another hijacked plane, but they do not know where it is. One pilot had enough gas remaining to make one pass up and down the Potomac River.
“One pass; that’s it,” he was commanded. “We think another one’s coming down the river, and we think it’s alone.”
“I was hearing this as I was taxiing down the runway, yelling at my crew chief to pull my chocks,” Penney said. “Get the pins out! Strap. Harness. Seat.”
“Billy takes off, and as he does, he makes one pass over the river low, going on up to the northwest over the Potomac. Full AV. Hits Great Falls, turns back around, comes back down the Potomac where he turns left into the Chesapeake, and then he goes back and lands.”
Sasseville and Penney take off right after him.
“I don’t even have a platform,” Penney said. “This is before GPS, and my radar has not finished its blip. We are free and far, Baby, into that beautiful clear crystal-blue day, headed to the northwest. We flew for a while until we were sure we had sanitized the area and that nobody else was coming in.”
Sasseville told her it was time to go back to be sure they were not outflanked by somebody else who might be out there.
“We never found anyone, and of course we all know why. Sasse and I were not heroes that day. The passengers on Flight Number 3 were, as were all first responders, as were all Samaritans who helped each other in the Towers and in the Pentagon. We weren’t the heroes that day; they were.”
A week or two later, the Pentagon was still smoldering, when one of Penney’s squadron, ‘Tuna’, had to be at there. Somebody recognized his patches.
“Are you a D.C. Guard?” he asked, and this is what the man told him…
“When the Pentagon was hit, they obviously began evacuating. They evacuated to South Parking, out the Metro Entrance, and into North Parking, on the other side of a highway. So you have to go over a bridge, over a busy highway to get to North Parking. People were streaming out all of those entrances to get out of the building.
“There’s a Department of Defense Day Care, right at the base of that bridge. Women were wheeling the children and the infants in their six-kid buggies and three babies to a wheeled crib. But they couldn’t get those buggies and cribs up the stairs and over the bridge to get away from the burning building. The smoke from the fires was coming up from the west side of the building, over the day care, over the bridge and into North Parking … and the women are giving babies away, because they couldn’t carry them over the bridge.
“‘Can you take this child? I can’t get them up.’ Everyone knew there was another (hijacked plane) coming in, but they didn’t know more than that. Unlike in a normal crowd where there’s a low roar because everyone is talking, everyone is silent – with fear – with the unknown as the black cloud drifts over them.
“Then all of a sudden Billy goes roaring over them at 200 feet at Max AV, rattling their chests with the strength of that engine, and the crowd erupted in cheers, because they knew that American fighter jets were airborne. We were overhead. We weren’t going to let anyone hurt them. They were going to be okay.
“I was amazed and very humbled at the outpouring of response that followed the tenth commemoration – heartfelt gratitude for what I had been ready to do that day. I’m genuinely surprised by how many expressed amazement that I was willing to give my life without a second thought. I truly believe that what I did that day was not anything special. I believe that any one of us would have done the exact same thing.
“Why?” Penney asked. “Because there are some things in this world that are more important than my soft, pink body: freedom, the Constitution of the United States, our way of life, mom, apple pie, baseball, those things that make us uniquely American. We all want that thing that is greater than ourselves. That something greater is that ‘thing,’ this idea called America. It binds us together in citizenship, community and brotherhood.
“In the days that followed, yes there was grief, but there was also something far more precious. We came together as Americans. It didn’t matter what color you were, what gender, what sexual orientation, what economic bracket. None of that mattered. What mattered was that you were an American. That we are all Americans, and we share a bond of something far greater, far grander than the small differences that are screeched about on television shows. That thing: America and what it means to be American cannot be broken.
“Hitler couldn’t break it; the Soviet Union couldn’t break it; and Al-Qaida couldn’t break it. We woke up on 9/12 and we were still Americans.
Early lesson learned
“I’m drawn back to the story that Tuna told us about the Pentagon: that we were airborne, that they were safe, and they were going to be okay,” Penney said. “We were only the visible tip of that spear, having an accidental place in history from the graces of chance. I am but one of hundreds of thousands who have pledged to defend our country, our constitution, and our way of life. I am not the first, and I am not the last, but what we do is only possible because of you. We aren’t flying those jets; you are.
Behind the scenes
“It begins with industry – the commitment and innovation of companies like those that make up the North Texas Commission – people who understand that there are things in this world that are more important than ourselves,” Penney said. “We are all part of this greater whole – this wonderful thing called America. We’re living history today and shaping tomorrow. Whether you are the ones who are dedicating your lives to inventing game changing technologies, integrating software and sensors to give us that asymmetric advantage, or designing and engineering the airplanes that we strap on every day, or just making sure that pilots like me have the training and equipment we need to go out in ‘Bad Guy Land,’ accomplish our missions successfully and come back home safely. We are all in this together. We can’t do what we do without you.
“Thank you for your service.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:02
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