By Abby Scalf
Daily Herald Correspondent
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Whether it's feeding a group of hungry college students or a party of 20 neighbors, Patty Nicpon loves to entertain.
"Whenever there is a chance to have a party, I guess I'm your girl," said the Arlington Heights resident.
Patty has catered events for family and friends; her work ranges from wedding cakes to meals for 200 guests. No matter how many mouths, Patty seems at ease.
"I can make dinner right now for 25 people easily," she said. "I just go to creative mode. I always have a pot ready to roll."
And her home is well equipped to handle anything: she has two full kitchens, including one in the basement.
"Downstairs I have so many pots and pans hanging from the rafters. Like I said I'm a stock-up store," she said.
Patty cooks with the seasons. This time of year, her stove keeps busy with hearty soups such as minestrone and a crowd-pleasing cream of broccoli. In warmer months, Patty relies on the grill, particularly for vegetables.
"I will put burgers on the grill when I'm making my vegetables that will give it some smoky flavors from the fat dripping down. Once you infuse your food with the smoke, you don't need a lot. That's one of my better tricks of the trade."
Patty doesn't limit her entertaining to the dining room table. Taking a rental car and pan warmers, she treated her son Brad and a college crowd to Italian sausage, meatballs, sauce, rolls and salad when she visited him in Boulder, Colo.
And she feeds those she doesn't know. Every other Sunday, Patty brings food to 60-some visitors to a homeless shelter at an area church.
"Come Saturday night, my wheels are spinning figuring out what can I bring. I have pasta, I have chicken, I have a roast. I can make a jambalaya. It is stuff like this that drives me."
Patty also showcases her skills at culinary competitions. Most recently, she entered the Chicago Bacon Takedown, a nationwide tour sponsored by Hormel. Her bacon and cheese empanada with raspberry chipotle sauce was a hit.
Patty doesn't see a future in which she isn't cooking. She's toyed with the idea of opening a bed and breakfast or holding cooking classes for young adults so they learn to entertain at home and bring back the family dinner.
"I was brought up that way and so were my kids. I think that it is key to enjoy the kitchen," she said. "After all, it is the heart of the home."
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