Royal Temptations - Merrimack Journal Article

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Reproduced from

November 12, 2004 - Front Page

It's Oooooooooooooooooooonagh!

Local chef brings her cooking to the masses

By Mary Ellen Hettinger
Merrimack Journal Staff

The Merrimack Public Library served up another wonderful program Tuesday night as about 30 people were entertained and educated by local chef, TV personality and cooking teacher extraordinaire Merrimack's own Oonagh Williams.

Within the cozy confines of the decidedly un-kitchen-like Klumpp meeting room, Williams conjured up a tasty trio of dishes offering a seasonal flair that are just the thing for holiday parties.

Assistant library director Diane Arrato Gavrish acted as sous chef while Williams whipped, beat, shook and stirred as she demonstrated techniques. The appreciative audience was peppered with Williams' fans, many of whom have taken her cooking classes, seen her on WMUR-TV's "Cooks' Corner," or enjoyed her catering.

Williams hails from London, England and was trained in the culinary arts in her hometown and the world capital of hospitality, Switzerland, so she brings a wealth of European experience to the dinner table.

Although she features many European-inspired dishes in her international cooking classes (including a Lithuanian cooking class), hers are not the stuffy, fancified recipes of food snobs.

"I make meals with ingredients you have at home" she said. "You don't have to go out searching for them." That said, however, Williams occasionally takes her classes on field trips to ethnic markets to try new and exotic things.

Tuesday night she prepared a creamy, light-as-a-feather pumpkin cheesecake mousse, a delectable brie appetizer featuring a maple, bourbon applesauce topping, and sticky chicken wings made simply but cooked very slowly for two hours for maximum lick-your-fingers effect.

Williams is a tough cookie who doesn't mince words when it comes to her culinary opinions, whether it's a hoity-toity magazine equating "evil camembert" with brie cheese, extolling the virtues of freshly grated whole nutmeg versus ground:("no comparison!"), or decrying "stupid recipes that tell you 'cook til done'" as half-baked nonsense.

And don't even mention a mix or prepackaged food; Williams specializes in cooking "all real food from scratch."

"Why not? It's simpler, much less expensive, and you can taste the difference," she said. You don't need pricey gadgets either. With the exception of a hardware rasp used in lieu of a knuckle-scraping grater, all of the tools she brought in her big red plastic toolbox were kitchen staples.

She's also a fan of flexibility and common sense.

"You can take a basic recipe you know works and add to it," she said. For example, with the substitution of chocolate and/or hazelnut flavors for pumpkin in the mousse, you have a whole new dessert.

The wings and drumettes recipe gives suggested amounts per portion, but as Williams warned, "The men just grab these by the handfuls" -- so make extra.

If your cake or pie falls, slides or looks unattractive, "Whipped cream covers a multitude of sins," she said.

Oonagh and her husband Ken, a senior product manager in the computer field, have a son who is a freshman at Syracuse University and they've called Merrimack home since 1987.

As audience members teased about the abundance of booze in her recipes, Williams noted that "a little liqueur goes a long way, so use 1 to 2 tablespoons, not half a cup."

She also is very conscientious about labeling dishes and menus regarding ingredients, so people with sensitivities to alcohol, nuts, etc. are forewarned.

And the mousse that contains Triple Sec and brie appetizer featuring a maple bourbon sauce are just as tasty without the alcohol, she said.

Mike English of Nashua was enjoying Williams's cooking class for the first time. "It's very informative, a great learning experience, and I'd come again," he said.

Mary Servello of Merrimack said she has four boys for whom to cook, and she loved the fact that Williams is "so down to earth. You don't need all that fancy stuff."

"She's an inspiration," said Marthe Loewy of Merrimack, "it was very enjoyable and time just flies so fast. She is very resourceful."

For more about cooking classes, Royal Temptations catering and personal chef services, and dozens of "user-friendly" recipes, see Williams's website: www.RoyalTemptations.com or
call Williams at 424-6412.


The Cabinet Press Inc. 2004

Recipes from the class at the Library, plus many others are here.


Oonagh Williams, proprietor of Royal Temptations, has a Culinary Arts degree, offers catering from 6-60 people, teaches a variety of classes in International Cooking, and makes regular appearances on WMUR ABC Channel 9's Cooks' Corner. You can contact Oonagh at 603-424-6412.