Local flavors shine bright in holiday dishes

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM.

PANAMA CITY — More than 30 adults and 10 children gathered on a recent Thursday evening as the scents from Chef Jessica Bright’s appetizers filled the library meeting room.

“It’s hard to smell all these smells. The library staff was starving by closing time,” said Bettina Mead of the Bay County Public Library.

Bright, who prefers being referred to as a “food enthusiast and kitchen enabler,” began the Fresh Family Feast cooking series on Nov. 29 with appetizers and will continue tonight with soups and salads. The class Dec. 13 will focus on entrees, with a recipe for pork tenderloin, and she will finish the series Dec. 20 with desserts, including Buche de Noel (Yule Log).

“I prefer to call myself a kitchen enabler because it’s not about what I can do, but how I can help you make your life a little tastier,” said Bright, a trained chef, who also has become known as a radio and television personality. “I’m more of a song and dance chef, worked with local TV on morning cooking show segments, but most of what I do is being a mom.”

As bubbly and radiant as her name suggests, Bright relocated to the area with her family in August from Jacksonville. She quickly has tracked down local and seasonal harvests, planting roots at the St. Andrews Community Garden.

“We just got a plot in the community garden with lettuces, green onion, cilantro, radishes and peas … 10 things,” said Bright, who grew up on a small farm in southeastern North Carolina.

She encourages others to get cooking, and share meals at the table with family and friends.

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