Fourth Annual ‘Cooks with Collars’ Winners Announced

The fourth annual “Cooks with Collars” – a friendly online cooking competition among priests in the Diocese of Allentown – wrapped up voting Feb. 12 at midnight and announced winners Feb. 13.

The title of “Top Dollar Chef” – a fundraising award, recognizing the video that raised the top dollar amount – goes to Father Robert George, pastor of St. Joseph in Summit Hill, who prepared a creamy pasta dish with chicken, spinach, and Asiago cheese.

Father George raised a total of $41,710, greatly exceeding his $2,000 target.

The title of “Top Party Chef” – a parish participation award, determined by the highest number of donating parishioners – goes to Father George Kochuparambil – known as Father Johnson – pastor of Most Blessed Trinity in Tremont, who indulged his passion for playing violin before preparing a hearty Veggie Skillet Lasagna.

This year’s competition featured 44 videos of priests exchanging their vestments for aprons and sharing special recipes with their parishioners and other viewers throughout the Diocese and beyond.

“It shows our priests in a different light,” said Ginny Downey, Major and Planned Gifts Officer for the Diocese of Allentown. “It shows them as humans, fun, and relatable.”

Father Thomas Bortz, pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola in Sinking Spring, made a brown sugar and meringue-coated nut candy concoction he calls “Kuder Nuts” in his video, assisted by Father George Osei Ababio, assistant pastor of St. Ignatius.

The recipe originates from an old friend of Father Bortz named Greg Kuder, who brought the delectable, candy-coated nuts to a party years ago.

“I fell in love with them and told him I needed the recipe. His mom sent me a copy of the recipe, which she had clipped from a magazine,” he said.

Father Brendan Laroche, parochial administrator of St. Ursula in Fountain Hill, cooked what he called “a simple recipe” of pork roast with a coating of aromatic herbs and spices.

“I’ve been learning to cook over the last six months since I’ve been here,” said Father Laroche.

Father Richard Clement, pastor of St. Columbkill in Boyertown, concocted a snack called Herbed Cheese and Cracker Bits, which he described as “going to Heaven without the inconvenience of dying.”

Father Dominic Pham, pastor of St. Mary in Ringtown and St. Joseph in Sheppton, is one of last year’s winners. This year, he prepared Vietnamese Hoagies.

A new competitor this year was Holy Family in Nazareth. The pastor, Father Jonas Tandayu – born in Indonesia – and assistant pastor, Father Robert Alex Anthony – born in India – prepared Chicken Tikka Masala, in hopes of raising money needed to purchase automatic door openers for their church.

Father Jonas said they also decided to compete “to promote diversity and the church.” He said he appreciates all the support given by parishioners.

In addition to cooking, priests also shared their humor and other personal interests in the videos.

Monsignor Thomas Baddick, pastor of Notre Dame of Bethlehem, sang a song reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and prepared Meatloaf Braciole.

Other musical performances included:

  • Father Giuseppe Esposito, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker in Frackville, on guitar and vocals, as he prepared his favorite food: microwave popcorn.
  • Father Alexander Brown, assistant pastor of St. Anne in Bethlehem, played mandolin, as Father Anthony Mongiello, pastor, assembled a traditional Italian Beef Braciole stuffed with hard-boiled eggs.
  • Pastor Monsignor Edward Coyle and assistant pastor Father Abraham Ha of St. Ann in Emmaus were assisted by the church choir, which sang the recipe for Monkey Bread.

Father Keith Laskowski, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Easton, even shared pictures of himself while skydiving before preparing Pizzelles – Italian waffle cookies – along with parishioners the Azzolina family. The recipe came from Grandmother Carmella, and assisting were her two grandsons – Dante and Marco – who are altar servers. Father Laskowski described the recipe as “the best pizzelles in the Diocese.”

Downey said the competition gives parishioners “a feeling of connectedness” with the priests in the Diocese, and some parishioners have even formed “watch parties” to view the videos together and cheer for their favorite priests.

“It’s so refreshing to see the love and support for our priests,” said Downey. “Nothing brings us together like a meal.”


Mass Livestream