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Wood-oven cooking class will feature pizzas, appetizers

Kelley L. Miller holds a pizza fresh out of the oven
Kelley L. Miller, vice president of New Look Kitchen & Bath in Front Royal, holds a pizza fresh out of the oven while Jay Olexa, co-owner of Around Your Kitchen, puts a pair of mini pizzas in. The two businesses are teaming together to offer a cooking class featuring the wood fire oven. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Pizza grilled in the outdoor wood oven
Pizza grilled in the outdoor wood oven at New Look Kitchen and Bath on North Royal Avenue in Front Royal is sliced and ready to be someone's meal. The fixture was built over a period of two weeks. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A pizza bakes
A pizza bakes inside the wood oven. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Olexa checks on a pizza
Olexa checks on a pizza. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Ben Orcutt - borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL --Kelley L. Miller is hoping now that she's designed a better wood fire oven, people will beat a path to her door.

"It's very easy to use. It really is," said Miller, vice president of New Look Kitchen & Bath at 322 N. Royal Ave., during a recent demonstration. "You can do things beyond pizzas. You can do rotisserie chicken. You can do focaccia bread. The temperature is 900 degrees, so you're gonna be surprised when we put this pizza in how quick this pizza's gonna cook."

The pizza was out in about three minutes, and as delicious as one from a pizzeria.

The oven took two weeks for Ed Powell's masonry company to build. It would cost about $6,000, while the extras -- granite countertops on the sides of Miller's oven -- would up the cost to between $8,000 and $10,000, she said.

"That's a huge thing on the West Coast is outdoor living space," Miller said. "The outdoor living space or the outdoor kitchen is really trending eastward, so just because I've been doing kitchens and baths for 29 years, it's like, I want to do something different. People are tending to invest in their homes. They're not moving, so this gives a way to extend your space. We can add electrical. We can do various different things. I can't wait to put one in at my house."

"This is a permanent fixture," Miller added. "My showroom building was built in 1917 and it'll last just as long as my showroom and beyond because it's all masonry. You could consider it to be a very green product because you can go out and just get firewood. And then there's the intangible benefit of being able to enjoy it, enjoying time with your family and that sort of thing as well."

The wood helps to give whatever's cooked in the oven a unique flavor.

"You're getting that flavor all infused into whatever you're cooking," said Bunny Johnson, co-owner of Around YourKitchen at 126 E. Main St.. "Where an open fire, it's just going out into the air."

Miller's wood fire oven will be featured in a cooking class Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at her business. The event is being co-sponsored by Johnson and Jay Olexa, Around Your Kitchen's other owner.

Chef John McPherson of the Foster-Harris House in Washington, Va., will be teaching the cooking class, which will cost $45 per person and is limited to the first 20 people who sign up.

"He's very big on using local, fresh ingredients," Johnson said. "So he'll do a pizza, but he'll show you how to use things right out of your garden, things that you might not even [have] thought of. He's gonna show you some appetizers to do out on the grill, and then he's gonna do some different pizzas. He did a pizza class in our store a while back, and he even did a dessert pizza. So I'm sure it'll be something fashioned like that, but this time we're cooking outdoors."

McPherson has his own cookbook, Olexa said.

"He's very established," Olexa added. "He's working on getting a TV show up and running. He's a great instructor and able to tell people how to cook and what to cook and just laying out things for them. That's the whole point about coming to the classes is that we have people that don't cook at all. When they leave, they know more about the basics. They know how to make things, and they know how to combine things together, and they feel a little more confident when they go into the kitchen."

Tuesday's event would make for a good date night, Olexa said.

"You're gonna get a nice meal," he said. "You're gonna have some nice wine, have a lot of fun company, and yeah, it'll be a blast."

The ability to work on a joint project with Johnson and Olexa is appealing to Miller in addition to featuring the wood fire oven.

"The other piece of this that I think is really neat about what we're doing is you have two local small businesses who are sort of partnering together for the benefit of both businesses," Miller said. "To me as a small business owner, it's really energizing and exciting to be able to do things like this."

Johnson is just as keen on Miller's wood fire oven.

"Everybody should have this in their yard," Johnson said. "I think just looking at the whole unit is just so inviting it's asking for friends and family to come over."

To sign up for the cooking class, call Around Your Kitchen at 635-5971, and for more information on the wood fire oven, call New Look Kitchen & Bath at 635-8020.



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