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Hot sauce leads to TV proposal for Kiski grad

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 11:15 a.m.

Allegheny Township native Chelsea Kolakowski got engaged on national television on Friday — and she owes it all to hot sauce.

Kolakowski's fiancé, Ed Martin, said he began approaching television shows and entering contests last year after Kolakowski, his girlfriend of six years, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in August 2012.

Martin, 27, of New Jersey said he wanted to show his commitment to Kolakowski regardless of her illness by proposing marriage, but initially couldn't afford an engagement ring.

He hoped a contest or TV show could help, or at least ensure the proposal was an event to remember.

After hearing nothing for nearly a year, Martin said producers from “The Rachael Ray Show” contacted him a few weeks ago to find out whether he and Kolakowski still were together and whether they still were interested in appearing.

Martin said yes, but then was challenged to get Kolakowski on the show without giving away the surprise.

Kolakowski, 30, a 2001 Kiski Area graduate, didn't want to request time off from work. She initially said no to the tickets she was told a friend had acquired.

“I didn't want to upset my boss to ask for a few hours off to basically watch a TV show,” said Kolakowski, who works as an executive assistant for a music industry merchandising company in New York City.

Martin had already cleared it with Kolakowski's boss, but he couldn't tell her that.

Instead, he persuaded Kolakowski to go on the show for a chance to promote his start-up business, Outer Limits Hot Sauce.

“I guilted her into it,” he said. “I said she could try to give hot sauce to Rachael Ray. She was kind of mad at me.”

“I did it for the hot sauce,” Kolakowski quipped.

Kolakowski said she didn't suspect anything until the end of the episode, which was taped on Sept. 18 and aired Friday morning on ABC.

Having been in the audience for other television show tapings, she didn't notice anything special about their seats or how they were treated.

The taping proceeded normally until celebrity chef and show host Rachael Ray selected Kolakowski — supposedly a random audience member — to sit at an on-stage table and taste the recipe of the day, wurst sausages prepared atop a hash of potatoes and apples.

After Kolakowski sampled the dish — which she proclaimed “delicious” — Ray revealed she had an ulterior motive for selecting Kolakowski.

A recorded video then played with Martin describing how he met Kolakowski at a Christmas party and “knew I wanted to marry Chelsea from the moment I met her.”

A split screen shows Kolakowski gasping with surprise and wiping away tears as Martin describes her yearlong battle with cancer that included the removal of her colon and six months of chemotherapy treatments.

“There's no one I love in the world more than her,” Martin said in the video. “When she was afraid I was going to leave (because of the cancer), I wanted to show her I'm in this for the long haul.”

Martin, wearing a suit and carrying a bright-blue ring box, then walked onstage, got down on one knee and asked Kolakowski to marry him.

Kolakowski replied with an emphatic “Yes” as he put the ring on her finger. They embraced as Ray and audience members were shown wiping away tears amid applause.

The episode ends with Ray shaking their hands and telling Martin, “Congratulations. You're a wonderful man.”

“She was really, really nice,” Kolakowski, reached at her New Jersey home on Friday night, said of Ray. “She was super sweet.”

Only a few friends who helped arrange the surprise and Kolakowski's father, Dennis Kolakowski of Allegheny Township, knew of the proposal beforehand.

“Ed swore him to secrecy,” said Vickie Kolakowski, Chelsea's mother. “He called to ask for our blessing. My husband did not breathe a word to me.”

Vickie Kolakowski said she didn't learn of the proposal until after the taping when her daughter called: “She was so excited, she couldn't get the words out fast enough.”

Vickie Kolakowski said she was thankful that Martin was so dedicated and helpful through her daughter's treatment at New York hospitals.

“It was very comforting to Denny and I because we couldn't be there,” she said. “It was very difficult being so far away. It was a blessing that he was so attentive. He gave her 100 percent of his time.”

“Ed came to every single one of my chemo treatments,” Chelsea Kolakowski said. “He took care of me the whole time.”

Kolakowski said she was scanned in August and is now cancer-free.

“I feel really good,” she said. “I'm really excited.”

The couple tentatively is planning a spring 2015 wedding, possibly in the Pocono Mountains in Eastern Pennsylvania as a halfway point between Martin's family in New England and New Jersey and Kolakowski's family in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

They haven't worked out all the details yet, but perhaps two things should be on the menu at the reception: wurst sausage with potato-apple hash and hot sauce.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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