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Young chef with local connections appears on TV show

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| September 30, 2009 12:00 AM

Joy Skogas would always set up a space for her granddaughters to “help” in the kitchen when they visited during Christmas and summer vacations.

“Baking was one way of having fun together in the kitchen,” recalled Skogas.

She would hand granddaughter Katie Remick, the youngest of four, a piece of dough to make bread or cookies. Remick would eagerly flatten the substance with a rolling pin, but with the hand-eye coordination of a 4-year-old, the dough would eventually slip onto the floor.

“They always got baked no matter how dirty they were,” said Skogas, a Libby resident. “It went in the oven with my stuff and we baked it and she was real proud of them.”

By the time Remick was in junior high, she baked bread, apple pies and cookies. She grew up in Newport, Wash., but visited her grandparents in Libby often.

Her passion in the kitchen irritated her family on hot summer days.

“We’d come up (to Libby) every summer and visit,” she said. “Every summer I’d want to bake and they’d want to kill me because it was really hot.”

Now at age 21, Remick says that her grandma instilled the love of cooking that led her to compete on a national television show against masters in the culinary field.

Iron Chef America, a Food Network television series, aired Remick and two of her classmates from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix taking on chef Michael Symon last Sunday. The episode will air again Saturday at 2 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sunday at midnight.

Skogas chuckled at the idea of being her granddaughter’s inspiration, and replied, “She’s just being real kind to her old grandma. ”

Remick praised Skogas’ sense of adventure in the kitchen.

“She was always curious and trying new and different things,” Remick said. “My grandma, every time all the time, she made cooking and baking look like so much fun.”

Remick’s grandma, sister, and mom and stepdad, Patti and Steve Davidson of Libby, traveled to New York to watch the July taping.

“It’s one of those things that are surreal,” Patti Davidson said. “We’ve watched Iron Chef America for so long. … To think we watched it all this time and not only got to sit in the audience, but watched our daughter doing it.”

The intense competition involves cooks competing against one of five world-class chefs in the Kitchen Stadium. They have one hour to prepare a five-course meal and are critiqued by a three-judge panel on categories such as taste, presentation and originality. 

Remick and classmates Julie Fiedler and Tyler Burke worked feverishly against the clock. Remick appeared calm even though her mom admits her daughter was quite nervous.

“She did all the speaking (on the show),” Davidson said. “You can’t even tell in the taping that there were any nerves at all.”

Winning the competition would have been nice, Remick said, but it wasn’t the ultimate goal.

“It’s winning in itself just being on the show if you make it out with all limbs attached and all five dishes,” Remick said. “The crew told us we did better than a lot of professionals.”

It marked the first episode that featured culinary students instead of industry chefs. Remick and her classmates have competed together for over two years now and were selected by their school based on academic excellence, performance experience and passion for the culinary arts.

Remick gave the commencement speech for her graduating ceremony last week after earning her bachelor’s degree in culinary management.

The intense year-round program didn’t give her much time to visit her grandparents and parents in Libby, but when she did, she cooked meals for birthdays and anniversaries.

 “She really impresses me,” Skogas said. “Her presentation is so fancy, where mine is a thrown-together situation.”

Remick works at Mosaic Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. and is prepping for another cooking competition with her team in Shanghai, China in November. Though she has learned much in her time at school, she admits that her sticky buns never turn out as good as her grandma’s.  

“She’ll make me sticky buns, which is my favorite in the whole world,” Remick said. “I swear everything I make never turns out as good as grandma’s cooking.”