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Pritchett brings Northern flair, variety to role as Spencer-Penn’s new kitchen manager
Teresa Pritchett holds a plate of shrimp fettuccine alfredo. It normally is served with a garnish of lemon, but a garnish of orange gives it the dish a better flavor, Pritchett said. She is the new kitchen manager at the Spencer-Penn Centre.
Bulletin Accent Editor
Teresa Pritchett’s kitchen is a lesson in nations.
Pritchett, of Martinsville, began in November as the kitchen manager at the Spencer-Penn Centre.
Her meals may range from the cabbage rolls or kielbasa of Poland to the eggplant Parmesan and manicotti of Italy or beans and rice, but one thing’s for certain. They won’t be the same old thing.
Pritchett, 36, grew up outside Pittsburgh. Her grandmother, the late Elma Arnold, cooked “a little bit of everything, but she really enjoyed cooking pasta, anything with sauce,” Pritchett said.
Her grandmother’s regular meals included “a lot of cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, lasagna, manicotti and eggplant Parmesan,” Pritchett said. Kielbasa and potatoes and red or black beans and rice were more of her staples.
“Up North, you get a variety of everything,” Pritchett said.
When Pritchett was a teenager, her uncle’s wife, Johna Chrissy Panepinto, helped her refine her cooking.
Her aunt owned a small restaurant in downtown Monessen, Pa. Fat Jack’s, with eight tables, served breakfast.
Pritchett began working there in the summer she was 17. Her aunt taught her how to wait tables and remember the orders without writing anything down. She also taught Pritchett how to cook a variety of breakfast foods.
Not much later, in 1996, Pritchett made the move to Martinsville. Her husband, Timothy, and his parents, Margie and Tommy Pritchett, were from this area but living in Pennsylvania. In 1995, her in-laws moved to Cascade. Shorty after that, Teresa and Timothy Pritchett followed them South.
Coming to a small city from a big one gave her a bit of “culture shock,” she said. “There are not as many things to do here.”
She navigated her way through differences in food. “I had to learn to say ‘soda’ instead of ‘pop,’” she said. Analyzing the hoagie, popular up North, and the sub, eaten in the South, Pritchett decided they are pretty much the same thing.
She was surprised to see that hot dogs come topped with chili, and “how much people here eat beans and corn bread and fried chicken — so this is the true South.”
Pritchett chuckled when she remembered an early experience with her mother-in-law. The two women were riding together when her mother-in-law insisted they pull off the side of the road to pick some creasy greens she had spied. Teresa Pritchett was afraid to eat them. Later, when she told her husband about it, “he started laughing and said, ‘We used to do that when I was little.’”
Pritchett’s background in her aunt’s restaurant prepared her well for cooking twice a day for a big family, she joked. She and her husband have five children: Tashaila, 18, Lorenz, 16, Anthony, 14, Jordan, 13, and Nicholas, 11. She also enjoys cooking for events at her church, High Ridge Baptist Church on Carver Road.
She cooks the Italian, Polish and other foods she learned during her childhood. “I really enjoy making stuffed peppers, five-cheese lasagna and manicotti,” she said. “Every time I make them I think of my grandmother.”
She also likes to make “any type of salad, cherry and orange flounder and empanadas,” she said. She makes pies without crusts, by request from her children. Her favorite flavors are her grandmother’s coconut pie, and a sweet potato pie recipe from her great-great-grandmother. When it comes to cookies, her top varieties are peanut butter and sugar cookies.
Though she gets plenty of cooking practice at home, Pritchett decided to pursue it as a career as well, she said. In the spring, she enrolled in the culinary arts and hospitality management programs at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC).
She also has worked through the years at Breaking Bread, where Hugo’s is now, and at PHCC, WalMart and Texas Steakhouse. She also has worked as a private duty nurse’s aide.
“Cooking is my niche, I’ve found,” she said. “My husband and my kids used to say, ‘You can make money cooking for other people like you do for us.’”
At the Spencer-Penn Centre, Pritchett said, she aims to make the kitchen possibilities a prime component of the non-profit center being a “one stop shop” for weddings, receptions and other events that involve food.
She said she hopes to share the love of cooking through a combination of recipe exchanges and cooking classes. That includes a monthly session devoted to desserts. Some sessions will feature a recipe and dessert exchange, and in others she will give a class.
The topic of a Feb. 8 class will be dipped fruits. To register, call the center at 957-5757.