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Cheesy soup leads to Rachael Ray gig

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

An avid “Rachael Ray Show” fan, Cathy Michener answered this question posed by the popular daytime host: “What are some of your favorite comfort foods?”

“When I was a little girl, I remembered my grandma made this cheesy potato soup,” said Michener, a Belle Vernon Area school director. “So, I just sent it in.”

The Rostraver Township woman didn't expect a call from the hit daytime show, but then her phone rang.

As a result, Michener and her family were featured Tuesday on the New Year's Eve episode featuring Ray's Top 10 recipes of 2013.

“The producer, Jessica, called and said that Rachael wanted me to make the soup and then serve it to my family,” Michener said. “She sent us directions on how the segment had to go, and we did it.”

Michener's husband, Dean, served as cameraman and director for the homemade production.

“Well, we took many takes, let's say that much,” Michener said of the taping session. “Either I didn't smile enough, or I had potatoes in my hair ... or I had to tilt something a certain way.”

It was fitting that Michener chose the soup recipe, because she got to serve it to her grandson, Trevor Zuzak, for the first time.

“My son (David Zuzak) was stationed in Georgia while in the U.S. Army. He was back and had my grandson with him so it was really special for me,” she said. “He never had it before, so, I got to serve it to my grandson, just like my grandmother served it to me.”

Michener said everyone was “very, very well-behaved” during the taping.

“At first when I told them that the show called me they didn't believe it,” she said of her family. “Once they realized it was true, everything went great.”

After sending the video, Michener didn't know what to expect.

“A few days later, Jessica called back and said that Rachael loved it,” Michener reported. “Unfortunately, the video we sent was just a bit too long. But she said they were doing a Rachael's Top 10 Recipes of the Year show, and they wanted me to choose one and do the same thing.

“I'm not sure what number it is, but I chose to do the Chicken and Green Bean Casserole.”

A couple of weeks after the first tape session, the Micheners were back in the kitchen. And Dean, a barber by day, was back behind the camera.

“The second time was a little easier,” she said with a laugh. “We had two weeks in between to get it together.

“As fun as it was, it gets a little nerveracking. When you make things at home, you don't have to describe what you're doing step by step. I had to do it twice, so the second time was a little easier.”

The second go-round did not include her grandson, but her other son, Zachary Zuzak, made the cast. Zachary Zuzak is stationed in Virginia with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The timing worked out again, because we aren't able to get together a whole lot,” she said. “It was definitely special.”

Michener said the experience was rewarding and fun.

“The video had to be to them by 10 a.m. on Monday, and there we were at midnight Sunday night cooking and serving,” she said with a chuckle. “They called us and said they got it and that it was decided it was going to air on New Year's Eve. Our DVR is set.

“It was just a fun experience overall, and I'd definitely do it again.”

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.