It's through food that Father Leo Patalinghug emphasizes the importance of faith, hospitality, gospel truths and family togetherness.
Patalinghug, the star of Catholic cable channel EWTN's "Savoring Our Faith" cooking show, regularly travels the country to bring his messages of faith, love and culinary topics to the public.
A priest in the archdiocese of Baltimore, Patalinghug is also the author of several books, host of the radio show "Entertaining Truth," and he's at the helm of the movement Grace Before Meals, which stresses bringing families back to the dinner table. The priest is also known in cooking circles for beating celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a steak fajita throwdown.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, The Archdiocese of Chicago will present Patalinghug at Parish Leadership Day 2014 at Guerin College Prep in River Grove, Ill. (Visit archchicago.org).
Patalinghug said he's looking forward to spreading his Grace Before Meals message to conference attendees.
"I'll be communicating the message in a way that has been very effective and that is through food," said Patalinghug, during a recent telephone interview. The priest will be doing a cooking demonstration as well as showing and emphasizing that people can "improve lifestyles and communication with families and children" through the simple family meal.
Patalinghug, who is of Filipino descent, said his love of food was developed around his family's kitchen table.
"When I first got excited about it, it was as a child helping my mother in the kitchen. "I was a hyper kid and I liked the multitasking of it all," he said about the cooking process.
Patalinghug also speaks of the "Theology of Food" whereby he showcases how "Jesus used food to convey the good news."
In his latest book titled "Epic Food Fight: A Bite-Sized History of Salvation," the priest outlines the Theology of Food.
"It's the first time I've articulated the 'why,'" he said, adding he's showing the connection between cooking, faith, inspiration, community and food.
"I'm grateful people have connected to (the message)," he said, about the Grace Before Meals movement. In sharing his food for the soul, Patalinghug said "If you have good food, you have a captive audience" which also makes it easier for him to convey his spiritual message.
Patalinghug said he wants to dispel the ideas people might have that the Catholic Church is "force feeding them or giving them stale leftovers" in spirituality.
"I want to promote the teachings of the Catholic Church in a way that's not threatening but in a way that's comforting," he said.
What better way than "plating the message" via food, Patalinghug believes.
The cooking show "Savoring Our Faith," Patalinghug said, will have an "exciting twist" next season. It begins filming in the summer.
"We'll travel around the country and highlight local communities and local food," he said. Patalinghug, stresses he doesn't only want the focus to be on him when sharing recipes. He wants to showcase other people in the culinary spotlight with the new season.
Patalinghug said throughout the Bible, food is used as a means to communicate with people.
The cooking priest describes his style of cooking as simple, nothing elaborate.
"And my cuisine is more Italian," he said. Patalinghug picked up the Italian way of cooking when he lived in Italy for six years. He's also learned about many cuisines through the years, along with the Filipino cuisine he grew up eating.
Patalinghug believes "We can change the world one meal at a time. Just look at Jesus and The Last Supper," he said. "We can change the world with just one bite of goodness. My mission is to remind people why we cook."
The priest said if he could share a meal with anyone throughout history it would definitely be Jesus.
"It might sound like a corny answer but the idea of being fed by the Son of God is great," he said. Patalinghug views every meal as a gift and strives to continue to share his message of feeding the soul and those we love as a medium to better communication, peace in the world, comforting hospitality and spiritual growth.
For the upcoming Lenten season, Patalinghug suggests people visit crsricebowl.org, a program for which he developed a few recipes for Lent. Catholic Relief Services began its Rice Bowl program to combat hunger and poverty. For more information on Patalinghug and his programs, visit gracebeforemeals.com or ewtn.com/savoringourfaith
The following recipe for salmon is from "Spicing Up Married Life" by Father Leo Patalinghug
Sweet Spicy Bourbon Broiled Salmon
2 6-8 ounce cuts salmon filets (skin removed)
1/4 cup of bourbon
1/4 cup honey
The zest of one orange
The juice of one orange
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine bourbon, honey, and orange juice, orange zest in a saucepan and cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until it reduces and thickens. (CAUTION: There is a chance the alcohol from the bourbon can catch fire. Remove other flammable objects from the cooking area.) Once sauce is reduced and thickens, remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Season both sides of salmon with salt and cayenne pepper. Prepare a baking sheet with a cookie rack on top. Spray both pan and cookie rack with nonstick spray for easier clean up. In a separate plate, pour some of the bourbon mixture to cover all sides of the salmon. Place filets on top of the cookie rack about 2 inches away from each other. (Note: Cooking the salmon on the cookie rack will allow even cooking and avoid steaming the bottom of the salmon as it could unevenly cook in the glaze while in the oven). Place salmon in oven and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes pour about 1 -2 tablespoons of glaze on top of each filet. Cook for 10 minutes more. When salmon is cooked to medium rare (about 20 minutes), remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.