Carino shows off culinary skills to Junior League

Chef Johnny Carino demonstrated "Holiday Cooking Italian Style" at the Junior League of Victoria's 5th annual Gourmet Soiree Wednesday at the Victoria Country Club.
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Chef Johnny Carino cooks from the heart.

"Just because Johnny puts it on a recipe, doesn't mean you have to follow it. I hate cookbooks," Carino told a crowd of about 130 members of the Junior League of Victoria gathered Wednesday at the Victoria Country Club.

"Cook with your heart. Cook with your allergies. Cook with what you like. Have fun cooking. If you make mistakes, learn from them. I've made tons of mistakes," he said.

Carino was the featured presenter at the fifth annual Gourmet Soiree, a Junior League event underwritten by the Cooking Depot of Cuero.

"We try to present something the ladies can take and use at home," said Erin Hatley, event co-chair.

The theme of the event was "Holiday Cooking Italian Style" and Carino, who is no longer associated with the chain of restaurants that carry his name, didn't disappoint. He prepared a spinach salad with warm pancetta vinaigrette, penne pasta with crab, roasted peppers and gorgonzola, sauteed pork cutlet with vegetable ratatouille and Italian warm bread pudding with brandy sauce.

"I love it," said Pamela Orsak. "I'm learning so much. I was hoping to learn recipes that are easy to prepare, and he's succeeding at that."

Fellow Junior Leaguer Jenise Livesay, agreed.

"This is good. I am learning a lot from him," she said.

As Carino demonstrated preparation of each dish in front of the crowd, Victoria Country Club chef Matthew Reid and his staff prepared and served the same to those in attendance.

Carino, who has been a volunteer fireman, a Big Brother and worked with autistic children, said making presentations at nonprofit events is part of his makeup.

"It helps me give back to the community, whether it's the community I live in or one I visit, too," he said. "I have had a very blessed career and I think it's important to give back. It means a lot to me."