Cooking in test kitchen was her job

  • In her younger days, Pat Werner developed recipes for a national food company. Today she enjoys cooking for pleasure, entertaining family and friends in her Hawthorn Woods home.

    In her younger days, Pat Werner developed recipes for a national food company. Today she enjoys cooking for pleasure, entertaining family and friends in her Hawthorn Woods home. Photos by Gilbert R. Boucher II/gboucher@dailyhera

 
By Sally Eyre
Updated 5/19/2011 8:35 AM

There was a time when Pat Werner roasted 14 turkeys a day. It was part of her job, and she and her roommates benefited from the leftovers she brought home every night.

After graduating from Iowa State University with a food science degree and chemistry minor, Pat landed her first job in the test kitchens of the poultry division of Ralston-Purina. Pat also supervised food photo shoots and developed recipes, many of which have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the country.

 

"That's why I am a cook who follows recipes. Having developed recipes, I know that you have to try a recipe six or seven times to get the flavors just right," Pat says.

After she got married and began to have children, Pat quit her job.

"I am fortunate that I was able to stay home," she says.

Her cooking for her three children got creative; imagine a castle made from meatloaf with a mashed potato moat, green onion lanterns and broccoli trees, and an edible volcano.

"Our family sat down to dinner every evening to a three-course meal," says Pat. And they often used the good china and may explain why her grown children love to cook and entertain.

"They know not to serve dinner with a ketchup bottle on the table," she laughs. Even her grandchildren ask to eat in the dining room with the crystal, china and candlelight.

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"One day they had been very rambunctious. When they asked to have candlelight at dinner, I told them they would have to behave. They were perfect. I had a glass of wine, looked around the table and asked my husband, 'what more can you ask for?'"

Pat often gets teased about her multiple sets of china and the fact that she has 10 spatulas.

"When I worked in the test kitchen there was always a little lady coming behind me to clean up and hand me a clean spatula, I still always grab a clean one!" she laughs.

Having multiple sets of china and crystal serves Pat well because she loves to entertain.

"I pride myself on the fact that I could put together a dinner party with two hours notice." In fact, Pat once served a sit-down dinner with the works for 61 people.

"I could have people over for dinner every other night and be happy." she laughs. "We run around with a good group of people. We don't go out to dinner much because we all prefer to cook at home."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pat keeps her recipes all organized on her computer, "Except for the 6-inch stack that I haven't entered yet!"

She particularly loves making original sauces. Her mustard sauce for ham comes with a warning: once you try it you will never want to eat ham without it again. You will love her grilled salmon topped with a refreshing cucumber sauce, an unusual shrimp salad made with Granny Smith apples and fresh mushrooms, or the broccoli salad kicked up with green olives.

Pat isn't always alone in the kitchen however. "My husband cooks as well," she admits, "I couldn't pull off a dinner party without him."