Chefs Of Keloland

I don’t dread Monday’s like some people do; never have really..except, maybe when I was in High School and Jay Ruckdaschel had promised a Monday biology test the preceding Friday.

I suppose it’s because I didn’t dread my job at Keloland; especially since my work hours were such that I never had to set an alarm clock to jar me into consciousness each morning. For several years during the 90’s I looked forward to the first day of the work week because it was Monday Menu Day on the Early News at 5; a six minute cooking segment featuring invited guests who would come on and display their culinary skills. Co-host, Angela Kennecke and I would assist the cooks in their preparations then…to the delight of our audience..tasted each dish and give our opinion.

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I forget the name of our 10 year old guest chef on Monday Menu but years later I did a story on him all grown up and a chef at Minervas; inspired, he said, by that experience on our show.

One of the questions people would often ask me over the years was weather I really liked the stuff people cooked on Monday Menu as much as it seemed or whether it was all an act. Well, truth is, most of the recipes were really good and worthy of our “mmmmm’s” and “oh, that’s delicious” comments. But there were plenty of exceptions.( More about that in a minute.)

I think our bosses at Keloland were pleasantly surprised at the popularity of Monday Menu. So much so that after a while, they built us a fancy new set that included cupboards as well as an actual stove and refrigerator so guests didn’t have to provide their own electric frying pan and ice chest. Each received a Monday Menu apron for appearing and their recipe was written up in the Shoppers News. Before long, Monday Menu was THE place to be for promoting a cause or event. For example, every spring a representative from Freeman’s Schmeckfest would be there to prepare some German cuisine; everything from boiled home-made sausage and kraut to Kuchen and poppy seed rolls. The Sons of Norway would promote their annual Lutefisk feed by force feeding some of that foul fish down our gullet. No amount of butter could make lutefisk palatable to me then or now. But I’d be first in line when we had the lefse bakers on.  Oh, we had some bizarre stuff people tried to pass off as food..especually during the tofu times when there was a nationwide effort to convince Americans that this gelatinous glob of goo could actually be a delicious alternative to unhealthy red meat that was clogging our hearts and shortening our lives. I’ve tried tofu baked, fried, in soups, salads and casseroles and if that’s all there was to eat, life wouldn’t be worth living anyway. I don’t believe I ever went “MMMMMMgood” after sampling anything made with tofu on Monday Menu. My hypocrisy only goes so far. There was the time when somebody made a warm salad that included lemon grass and nearly made me gag as did anything with liver as an ingredient. I was also never big on seafood so when a guest fixed that, I’d have Angela do the tasting honors..including the time we were served a whole trout including the head on a platter for us to try.  There were so many interesting cooks that appeared on the air with us. It was a thrill when Wynn Speece “The WNAX Neighbor Lady” was there. Wynn was a dear friend to the thousands who listened to her on the radio sharing her recipes and gentle conversation for over fifty years and it was such and honor when she came on Monday Menu at my request.

One of the more interesting characters on the show was Lawrence Diggs AKA “The Vinegar Man” from Roslyn, South Dakota. An expert on all things vinegar, Diggs came to Roslyn from busy San Francisco for some peace and quiet and do some writing. Before long, the townfolk thought he should set up a vinegar shop on Main Street which led to the International Vinegar Museum and Vinegar Festival in Roselyn each summer. Anyway, Diggs came on with several different varieties of vinegar for us to taste and to explain his passion for this sour wine. Angela and I sampled each one on a sugar cube and were fascinated by Diggs’ knowledge of something most of us think very little about.

Also memorable was the appearance of our colleague and fellow anchorman, Steve Hemmingsen who agreed to prepare and share his legendary recipe for Beef Wellington. It was by far the longest most complicated recipe ever featured on Monday Menu and we darned near had to join the CBS Evening News in progress because there was no way Steve was going to get finished within the allotted six minutes. Thankfully, there was no liver in his recipe and it was delicious.

Most everyone who worked at Keloland TV had a turn or two on Monday Menu including Angela and me..several times.

I’ve often been asked which one of the foods featured was my favorite.

There were lots and lots of really good things to eat but, I suppose, the one that sticks in my mind was Philly Cheese Steak served up by our new General Manager, Mark Antonitis; a Philadelphia native . We were understandably uneasy about having the boss cook on the show. What if it was inedible?.  In fact, Angela and I were both so nervous that we each made the mistake of calling it Philly Cheese CAKE during the intro.But we got through it and when it came time for the tasting well..the thinly sliced and quickly griddled sirloin beef served on a long crusty toasted roll with caramelized onions and  melted cheese, was to die for.

Ironically, not long after he cooked that fabulous feast on the show, Mr. Antonitis called a meeting to announce he was changing the format of the Early News dropping all the daily features including Monday Menu. He figured a news show should have more…well, NEWS. Mondays weren’t as much fun after that.

Man, all this talk about food has my gut growlin’ .

“Linda, do we have any sirloin steak, hoagie rolls, onions and Cheese Whiz in the house?”

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  1. I am with you on the liver deal as well as anything tofu. I am sending a poem I wrote last week. Where is Spring? This year spring is trying to avoid us. All we can do is fuss or cuss! Ice is still on the lakes, every other day it snow flakes, or more often it comes in a torrent, and its still cold enough for long johns to warrant. Robins don’t know whether to stay or leave, they might be worried of a spring reprieve. Haven’t seen many geese flying strong, what if the ground hog was wrong? Don’t know if the sap is flowing or if the early flowers are growing. Calendar says to leave, it is time, for the snow to melt and the temperature to climb. There is more daylight everyday at least if the clouds stay away. Daylight savings time is here, any chance that spring is near?

  2. I remember being on Monday menu Doug. You must have had a lot of watchers because people commented on my recipe for a long time after that. They were good comments to.

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