Lincolnton resident and aspiring caterer Anna Mullen served as Martha Stewartâ€™s cooking partner earlier this month during a live television broadcast of one of the domestic connoisseurâ€™s weekday shows.
Mullen and her neighbor Melissa Dempster, a Martha Stewart enthusiast, decided to sign-up in December for audience spots on an episode of the Hallmark Channelâ€™s â€œThe Martha Stewart Show.â€
The women got the news a week before filming that not only would they be filling two audience seats during an upcoming episode, entitled â€œThe Cozy Show,â€ but that also Mullen would be joining Martha in front of the cameras to bake the starâ€™s favorite breakfast treat â€” golden raisin and candied orange scones.
Mullen said the producers scan the information of each person who registers for the show and matches up their interests with different show themes.
â€œThey said my info was a great fit,â€ she said.
While in New York, the women also received a backstage tour of the homey set.
Mullen credits Dempster for the entire experience.
â€œSheâ€™s the whole reason that we went,â€ Mullen said â€œSheâ€™d been to the show before.â€
Mullen also noted how she was unaware that the episode was to be aired live.
â€œI didnâ€™t find out until I got there,â€ she said, â€œthat way I didnâ€™t have a chance to get really nervous.â€
She said her encounter with Martha turned out to be â€œa great experienceâ€ that dispelled a lot of her initial intimidation of the infamous household icon.
â€œShe was not as intimidating as I expected,â€ Mullen said. â€œI was relieved. She was very, very friendly.â€
Mullen pointed out Marthaâ€™s supportive nature and how remorseful she was after their cooking segment on the show was cut short.
â€œShe was so apologetic â€¦ that we ran out of time,â€ she said. â€œShe was very accommodating; it was surprising.â€
Mullen said she is prepared to follow in the cooking legendâ€™s footsteps and is currently researching food suppliers and a location for her future Lincolnton catering business. She plans to be open for business before the end of the year.
â€œWeâ€™re about six to eight months out,â€ Mullen said.
Formerly in the marketing business, she noted that she chose to switch careers to accommodate her second job as a mother.
â€œI did a lot of travel,â€ Mullen said, â€œand long work days are not attractive. I want to do something that makes me available for their (sons) school functions and also do something that I love.â€
Mullen, who grew up in Dallas, N.C., but moved to Lincolnton in 2000 after marrying her husband Mark, whom she said is equally talented in the kitchen, has also been teaching the art form to her two sons, ages 5 and 7.
â€œWe cook as a family,â€ she said. â€œSome day one girl is going to be very lucky.â€
While watching both her mother and grandmother busy about the kitchen for years,
Mullen began to cook at an early age â€œI grew up in it,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t know anything different from that.â€
She also considers cooking to be her stress reliever and magnet for gathering together friends and family.
â€œI just love serving people food,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s how we connect. We love to have a kitchen full of people.â€
Mullen seemed disheartened that the age-old tradition has become a dying artform with all the pre-made food items offered in todayâ€™s market.
By opening her own business, she also hopes to present the community with healthier food options. Mullen said her family often gardens so she can offer her children organic dishes. She also freezes her homemade pasta sauces and other meals so that the family can have fresh vegetables all year round.
She encourages other aspiring cooks to continue doing what they enjoy, not giving up when a meal turns sour.
â€œDonâ€™t be intimated,â€ she said. â€œJust try it. The worst thing that can happen is itâ€™s not going to taste good, and youâ€™re going to throw it away and start over. Itâ€™s not a big deal â€¦. If itâ€™s not good, pick something new.â€
Mullen has no doubt that her business has great potential in Lincoln County. She looks forward to catering for local businesses, weddings and baby showers, among other events.
â€œThere are not a whole lot of caterers in Lincolnton, so I think we could definitely meet a need,â€ she said.