• WHAT: Great Valley Bookfest
• WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• WHERE: Bass pro Shops/Orchard Valley complex on Union Road at the 120 Bypass
• ADMISSION: Free
• MORE INFO: Go to greatvalleybookfest.org/
RIPON – Ella Mangelos-Velthoen knows her way around a kitchen.
She knows how to serve up some calamari amandine and is keenly aware of how capers can give even the simplest dish the Mediterranean kick that it needs.
And like any good chef or cook her knowledge comes from a mish-mash of places – passed down from female relatives, picked up from other culinary masters nice enough to share their secrets and observed in kitchens of small, family-owned restaurants around the world when traveling with her brother John.
Fortunately you don’t need to have the large extended Greek family or the full passport to learn how to turn a meal into something extraordinary. Both she and her brother have already done the work in the pair of cookbooks – The Greek Gourmets and Culinary Adventures of The Greek Gourmets. They’ll be promoting the books at the upcoming free Great Valley Bookfest on Saturday, Oct. 27, in Manteca from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops/Orchard Valley complex on Union Road at the 120 Bypass.
“We have these wine dinners here at the restaurant where we pair different courses with different wines and we always had people coming up and asking for recipes,” Mangelos-Velthoen said. “And we were more than happy to provide them. But then I thought, ‘Why not just put all of these recipes into a single book that these people can take home with them and enjoy?’
“We had 500 of them – The Greek Gourmets – made up at first, and before we knew it they were all gone. We had to order more and we knew that we were on to something.”
It’s been years since Mangelos-Velthoen spent the majority of her time preparing food in the kitchen of The Barnwood – stepping away from the business more than a decade ago when her daughter passed away to pursue teaching.
But she still comes back to help her brother with the extensive “Dinner with a Winemaker” offering that draws upwards of 200 people. The two still extensively travel the globe trying new and exotic foods in places they’ve never been.
It was one trip in particular, however, that truly changed the way that she looked at cooking.
On a 21-day excursion across Europe, she and John made it a point to stop in and visit small, family restaurants – gaining entry into their kitchen to see how it is that they cooked in that part of the world and how they worked together to get the food out to the customers that they were serving.
The experience resulted in their second book – Culinary Adventures of The Greek Gourmets.
“I just love the creativity that you have when you’re cooking,” she said. “I love the Greek desserts and the old country stuff, and while a lot of the people that we get here at the restaurant are culinary academics, they aren’t cooks – that’s a different style and it’s satisfying. It’s a chance to express yourself.
“I like being able to cook up a tart or a cake and bring it out to a table and see their expression.”
Stories behind some of the recipes are included in the cookbooks as a way to add a personal touch to the faces that are on the cover – a way to let the people know a little bit more about them when they were first starting out in the community.
“People knew who we were and that we had the restaurant and that was about it,” she said. “That was more than 30 years ago. I think that they know who we are now.”
About the bookfest
Thirty authors - including Manteca High graduate and New York Times bestseller William Kent Krueger - are signed up for the inaugural Great Valley Bookfest.
The free event features five venues where attendees can listen to authors make their presentations and ask questions. There also will be a number of gourmet food trucks plus arts and crafts style vendors as well as new and used books for sale.
Other activities include kids’ Halloween costume parade, writers’ workshop, self-publishing seminar, slam poetry performances, and cooking demonstrations.
A series of tents around the manmade lake in front of the movie theater will provide the venue for the presentations and other activities including the cooking demos. The gourmet food trucks will be parked in the drop-off zone for the theatre while the road running in front of the theater - from Bass Pro Shops to the roundabout with a fountain will be closed to accommodate arts and craft vendors. The meeting room inside Bass Pro Shops will also be used.
The authors attending cover a wide array of disciplines from children’s books to poetry, fiction, fantasy, nature, history, politics, western, mystery, cookbooks, suspense, romance, adult romance, poetry, and self-help.
A third of the authors have valley ties. Besides Krueger who is a 1969 Manteca High graduate there are Manteca residents Linda Kay and Kerry Harris, Ripon residents Don Moyer, Rob Kroese and Kerry Harris, Oakdale residents Kim Van Meter and Valerie Murphy, retired Manteca High counselor Steve Sonntag, as well as Cherish A. Doll of Salida and Linda Abbott Trapp of Valley Springs.
Other authors are Jennie Chadwick, Sue DePolo and Gary DeiRossi, Linda Knoll, Claudia Newcorn, Scott Lankford, Rick Deutsch, Jay Feldman, Major Mitchell, Amy Smith, Allison Brennan, Peggy Howard, Ken Albala, Rima Barkett and Claudia Pruett, Loretta Ichord, Maureen Minnehan Jones, and Jacque Graham.