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Happy Valley Culinary Week | Celebration to continue with staples

Harrison Schailey, chef at Harrison's Restaurant, cuts cucumber while demonstrating how to make gazpacho during a Happy Valley Culinary Week in 2013. This week, he and many other local chefs will return for a celebration of local foods.
Harrison Schailey, chef at Harrison's Restaurant, cuts cucumber while demonstrating how to make gazpacho during a Happy Valley Culinary Week in 2013. This week, he and many other local chefs will return for a celebration of local foods. CDT file photo

The third annual Happy Valley Culinary Week, a weeklong celebration of local restaurants, food and the art of cooking, comes to the State College area starting Monday. A food festival, chef demos and other events and demonstrations will be scheduled throughout the week, and culinary week menus will be featured at participating restaurants.

Participating restaurants will offer a multi-course fixed price menu showcasing their most popular dishes and new options, and giving diners an opportunity to sample cuisine from a broad selection of restaurants at affordable prices.

Happy Valley Culinary Week’s special price menus offer diners delicious three-course meals, which will include an appetizer, entrée and dessert.

The South Hills Culinary Week Food Festival will take place on the lawn of South Hills School of Business and Technology, 480 Waupelani Drive in State College from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The festival will feature popular chefs giving food demonstrations throughout the afternoon, along with music, a local farmers market and food vendors.

In starting Happy Valley Culinary Week, the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau recognized the nationwide trend for local restaurant weeks and that it was successful in every market.

“We sat down with a few of our area restaurants and they were immediately on board with the idea,” said Lori Miller, who is the director of visitor and member services for the visitors bureau. “We also realized that this would be a great way to celebrate some of the eclectic and diverse restaurants in the area offering world-class food, and encourage people to try a new place and hopefully discover a new favorite.”

Last year, the visitors bureau partnered with South Hills for the Happy Valley Culinary Week Food Festival. Now in its second year, the festival features 11 chef demonstrations happening every half-hour from noon to 5 p.m., plus 20 vendors exhibiting produce, gadgets, cookwareand cookbooks and there will also be live music provided by several local high school jazz ensembles, along with Doug Irwin, Steve Van Hook, Jim Colbert and Sammy Cannillo.

Supporting chefs will demonstrate recipes and participants will be able to taste their creations, ask questions and leave with a recipe in hand. “They will also be able to pick up a few kitchen skills as well,” Miller said. “We’ve also been trying to boost customer engagement with social media contests.”

While they don’t have any tricks up their sleeves, this community partnership does have some very talented chefs willing to share their secrets and demonstrate their talents. “We also have some of the best and brightest restaurants bringing people together to share an evening with friends, enjoying the culinary delights of Centre County,” Miller said.

Now in its third year, Happy Valley Culinary Week is continually changing and evolving. This year there is less of a focus on a central venue for events and more on encouraging participating restaurants to host their own specials and experiences, while promoting them through the bureau’s social media campaigns.

“The focus has always been on the excellent chef talent and venues we have right here in Centre County,” Miller said. “Our outreach to the community has increased and there’s been more word-of-mouth excitement.”

This joint production with the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau was such a hit last year that South Hills has an even bigger festival planned for this year.

“Last year’s food festival at South Hills was a rousing success, and we’re looking forward to seeing that grow this year and become even more popular,” Miller said.

For more information visit the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.visitpennstate.org or the South Hills website at www.southhills.edu/culinary-week/

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