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It was a beautiful Saturday — and the worst kind of pledge day for the folks at KCTS.

No one at home with the TV tuned to Channel 9, looking to cook something good and do something even better with their money.

But the show must go on, and it did — all day — when the nonprofit Seattle station put on its 18th annual “KCTS 9 Cooks: Chef’s Secrets” show and fundraiser.

“You want an outdoor wedding, with perfect weather? Call and ask us for a day of pledge,” cracked executive producer Paula Nemzek. “We had sleet one year and raised $50,000. It makes a difference.”

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Ah, but not long after Chef Doug Wilsonof Ten Mercer started wrapping shrimp and asparagus in pancetta and making cucumber linguine with a Japanese mandoline, the phones came to life and the pledges started coming in. (Feel free to make one at

Since it started in 1996, the show has raised more than $10 million for the station.

Producer Nicole Metcalf, another one there from the beginning, remembered coming to the station when her father, Steve Welch
, worked as a technical and operations director.

“This is like being part of a family,” she said — right down to cleaning up after the party. Metcalf would be there long after the cameras were turned off.

The show also helps raise the profiles of local chefs who send in recipes every year, vying for one of the 12, 10-minute live cooking segments. All of the recipes are included in a book given to those who donate to the station. (Did I already mention it’s

Over the years, cooking on live television has meant more than a few calamities, Nemzek said. Alcohol in pans has caught fire and set off the fire alarm. There were coughing fits brought on by chili peppers. An eternity spent watching someone whip egg whites. One chef cut his finger open and tried to hide the bloody mess behind his back and cook with one hand.

“Whatever happens, we’re going to acknowledge it,” Nemzek said, “instead of having a comedy of errors.”

The aroma of Wilson’s shrimp was still hanging in the air when Chef
Rajah Gargourfrom Cafe Munir came in to prepare his Batinjaan Farid, otherwise known as “eggplant boats,” otherwise known as slabs of eggplant covered in Roma tomatoes and roasted. Otherwise known as delicious.

He was followed by Chef Christian Chandlerof Serafina Osteria e Enoteca, who made Asparagus and Goat Cheese Cappeletti — from scratch.

He was happy to join hosts Mark Christopherof WARM 106.9 FM, who was happy to scoop up a bite from every dish, and Chef Bridget Charters, who taught Chandler some of what he knows at the Art Institute of Seattle, where she is an instructor. (She is now helping Chef Tom Douglasopen a cooking school.)

“He’s doing well,” Charters said of Chandler. “Obviously, if he’s executive chef.”

Waiting in the wings was Chef Jim Drohman of Le Pichet and Cafe Presse, who was last on the show in 2000.

“I’m happy to help out,” said Drohman, who is a big fan of “Antiques Roadshow,” “Inspector Morse” and “The NewsHour.”

He submits a recipe every year, and on Saturday prepared Smoked Garlic Sausage Braised With Lentils, Cabbage & Hard Cider. (The prep took 10 minutes; the actual cooking was about 30 minutes. And the sausage was made ahead of time at one of his restaurants).

“It’s a grandmotherly dish,” Drohman said. “Slow flame, let it putter along.”

Drohman said the show is good for the cooking community: “They don’t just focus on the big-name chefs downtown,” he said of the show’s producers. “They bring chefs from all over Washington, and I think that’s really swell.”

One of them was Chef Aaron Rockof The Bluff Restaurant at Friday Harbor House, who sat in the chef’s lounge, waiting to make his television cooking debut. He’d been on as a minor professional hockey player in Canada, but never in his whites.

Rock had come in the night before; the ferry didn’t leave early enough for him to get to the station on time and prepare roasted garlic-stuffed chicken with spruce tip-infused mustard cream sauce.

“I was looking for a recipe that could be done in a pan or two, and uses native, foraged items,” he said, then looked around the room.

“I keep hearing 10 minutes go by very fast,” he said. “So I’ll get some time in the prep kitchen and let the chicken cook off. The last thing you want is a close shot of cutting into raw chicken.”

Didn’t happen. But the station did raise $55,000 — 10 percent more than last year.

And the very next day, Seattle was blanketed with snow.

“Of course we were,” Nemzek said on Monday, not meaning to sound ungrateful.

“Why couldn’t we have had a few flakes to panic people into staying at home? That’s all we ask. A few flakes.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

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