By Konstantine Fekos
Reflecting on her apparent success as a TV host and cooking instructor, Meadville native Amanda Mascia finds herself crediting her Crawford County roots as the inspiration for her Emmy Award-winning children’s show, “The Good Food Factory.”
The San Diego-syndicated show has aired its first season, featuring no scripts or child actors, but rather spontaneous, one-take cooking lessons for children Mascia meets through her own cooking classes, birthday parties and other community activities.
Mascia, who attended the 39th Annual Pacific Southwest Emmy Awards with her crew, was also nominated for On-Camera Talent.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and I am a villager,” Mascia said, intent on letting her homegrown values speak through her work to make a difference in children’s lives. “Adults can be great inspirations. We should all take a great interest in the kids around us.”
While Mascia took an early interest in film and cooking, she never thought she’d put the two together from her early years, growing up in the Meadville community, to the career decisions that brought her to New York and her current home in California.
“Meadville is a wonderful place,” Mascia said. “In a lot of larger communities, kids are pigeonholed into doing one thing and it gets to be so competitive. I grew up in a place where you could do everything.”
Crawford County roots
Born Amanda Curry in the Tamarack Lake area, Mascia took on every opportunity that came her way, including school sports, community theater, nature walks, amateur videography and more. From the lake to the Meadville Area Recreation Complex, Mascia learned the value of a healthy lifestyle, learning to skate and swim.
“If Lake Erie had better surf, I’d live there,” Mascia laughed. “I was raised on appreciating nature and being active. It’s the key to a healthy life and it’s free. Meadville has so many free things you can do.”
Her parents, Richard and Jeanette Curry, encouraged her expansive community involvement and she continued to develop her many enthusiasms, always grateful toward her large network of friends and mentors for their help and support.
“When she was little, she’d run around with a (video) camera,” Richard said. “Her goal was to be on Sesame Street.”
“My grandma Betty, who currently lives in Greenville, taught me how to cook,” Mascia said. “She was an excellent chef. I think I was making blueberry muffins by age six.”
Mascia even recalled learning valuable lessons from her lifelong friend and mail carrier, the late Hugh Urquhart, who taught her that any caring, thoughtful adult can serve to inspire and influence a child.
After graduating from Meadville Area Senior High School in 1995, Mascia attended Penn State University, developing marketing and communications skills which she took to New York, working for advertising agencies and firms on Wall Street.
In 2007, Mascia began researching childhood obesity and realized marketing techniques for candy and junk foods would be better suited for advertising a healthier lifestyle.
With her experience and variety of skills, Mascia set off toward her new goal — to make healthy eating fun.
Factoring good food
In 2008, Mascia left the “city that never sleeps” for a state where she could always surf. Her transition to the West Coast presented its challenges, but she eventually turned healthy living into a business.
“It’s a lot of work, making a TV show,” Mascia said. “I have a wonderful production crew, but I do all of the pre-production, marketing, (public relations) and post-production myself.”
Between finding recipes to test, children to teach and studios to book, Mascia also finds time to teach off-screen cooking classes and prepare food for birthday parties and other social gatherings.
“I love eating healthy food,” Mascia confessed. “Sometimes I’ll be cooking dinner and think, ‘Why shouldn’t kids learn to make veggie stir fry with their own teriyaki sauce?’”
With no reasonable answer in sight, Mascia set off to create the perfect setting to promote nutritious eating. She describes her final product as a cross between Rachael Ray and Bill Cosby’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
“One of the requirements I had going in was that every single person on the crew had to be extremely positive, friendly and they must love children,” Mascia said. “It’s about children having a good time and me being on the same level as the children.”
The children seem to enjoy the health-conscious silliness that goes into each episode, learning how to grate cheese like “petting a kitten” or cracking eggs as if “knocking on your grandma’s door.”
No one stops the filming, nor do they correct or direct the children, Mascia said. Each approximate 30-minute segment, often watched live by the children’s family or friends, is simply a result of “the magic of us having a good time.”
Mascia makes sure to keep the magic alive by staying in touch with her new friends, young and old, often receiving texts and photos from kids who recreated her recipes at home.
Life after fame
Meadville friends and family sure aren’t forgotten, as Mascia makes at least one annual trip back to her hometown. True to her lifestyle, she’ll even buy local produce in support of Crawford County’s growers.
The local buzz between Mascia’s local family and friends is undeniable, according to her parents, who receive tapes of each episode from their daughter.
“Everyone’s extremely proud of her,” Jeanette said. “We all knew she could do it, but an Emmy’s still pretty impressive.”
“It’s nice to see someone have a goal like that, to make the right decisions and succeed,” Richard added. “It’s hard to do in this day and age.”
Mascia’s parents urged her to press on through the various ups and downs, promising she would eventually reach success and admittedly not being too surprised when she did.
“Both of my parents have done so much from day one in making sure that I succeeded,” Mascia said. “They have been my endless, tireless supporters and have never let me give up on this crazy dream of making a TV show.”
Now that the show is officially classified as “award-winning,” Mascia hopes to realize her next goal of national syndication and spreading her fun food message across the country.
Until then, she plans to shoot more seasons, acquire more sponsorship and hopefully propel the show all the way back home.
“I’m trying desperately to get the show (aired) locally,” Mascia said, hoping the show will be picked up by an Erie or Pittsburgh network. “I’m calling every single station and asking if they want to air the show. We’re hoping the Emmy really brings in some advertising and sponsors for us.”
n More information: Visit thegoodfoodfactory.com.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.