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Cook's Corner

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    Chris Blake is ready for a fight.The local consultant is one of the men behind Operation F4: Fight for a Fitter Fort, a program to promote a healthier community that has been endorsed by Mayor Tom Henry.
I still want to learn …
Lori: How to make good cabbage rolls. What do you say?
Steve: I don’t know. How to take a vacation?
I can’t wait to …
Lori: (laughs) Retire.
Steve: That was my first thought. Or get home on a Saturday night and relax.

Couple returning to rib competition

S. Manley
L. Manley
Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Steve and Lori Manley use flat iron steaks in the making of Manley’s Caprese Bread.

– Steve and Lori Manley will be at Ribfest in Van Wert, Ohio, this weekend. It will be the fifth time the couple have competed at the event. In some ways, they’re hoping it won’t be as heart-racing as last year’s competition.

“This is our fifth year and in those five years, we brought home nine trophies. (Last year) we took first place Judges, first place People’s Choice and second place Sauce,” says Lori, 51. “I forgot to send a separate container. My mom had to be taken to the hospital during that time.”

“At about 7 p.m., the tornado sirens went off,” says Steve, 51. “It was quite a day.”

“We sold out last year, even with the tornado,” she says, laughing. “We got our trophy and ran for cover.”

Smiling, he says, “It was exciting.”

Steve is part owner of the family business, Manley Meats Inc., east of Monroe. The retail butcher shop opened in 1962. He was raised in the business along with his two brothers and sister. Lori started working there after she and Steve were married in 1999.

His responsibilities include being in charge of all cooked products that go out of the retail case but he does catering, too. Lori also helps.

“I take all the catering (orders) and set up the schedules. We set it up and serve it,” she states.

He says they’ve been in charge of the catering side of the business for 10 to 12 years.

“About our second week of catering, Fleetwood in Decatur called,” he says. “It was a customer appreciation luncheon for 5,000.”

“He said, ‘Well, if we can do this, we can do anything,’ ” she says.

Steve said they cooked for more than 1,000 people during the last holiday season.

“In eight hours,” Lori adds.

Between the couple, they have five children and 12 grandchildren. Now that they’re just cooking for the two of them, dinnertime is pretty simple.

“That’s the benefit of the butcher shop. There’s day that she’ll ask what I want and I say bologna or hot dogs,” Steve says.

Lori shakes her head and says a quick meal at their home is mostaccioli or spaghetti.

While he enjoys grilling, at home she does the cooking.

“I do the majority at home but he’ll add something when my back is turned,” she says. “Well, I like to say we complement each other.”

Looking at him, she adds, “That’s what makes it work, right?”

Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?

Lori: Don’t be afraid to try different things. You can’t stick to a customary recipe. Go outside the box.

Steve: I would say the same. Just keep experimenting.

Lori: And always write down your ingredients. I’ll say, “What’d you do, babe?”

Steve: I’m bad about that. I don’t measure anything.

Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?

Lori: Spoon, so you can taste it!

Steve: I use the tongs a lot.

Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one food you would have to have?

Steve: I like a lot of everything. She would say lobster. She loves lobster.

Q. What’s something people would not find in your refrigerator?

Lori: Sardines. What’s something people wouldn’t find in our refrigerator, Steve?

Steve: Tofu or soy burgers. That’s nice about having the catering business here. We’ve got access to the freshest products and ingredients.

Manley’s Caprese Bread

6 Roma tomatoes cut in half, seeds spooned out

1 green pepper, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

4 cloves garlic

1 pound flat iron steak, cooked and sliced into strips

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cilantro

2 (16-ounce) packages shredded Mexican style cheese

1 loaf Italian or garlic bread cut in half long ways

Place vegetables and meat in bowl season with cumin, chili powder and cilantro. Mix half the cheese with vegetables and cooked meat. Place two halves of bread on baking tray. Top with vegetable and meat mix. Spread other half of cheese on top. Baked at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Sweet & Sour Chicken

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice (may substitute with orange, peach or apricot juice)

1/4 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon soy sauce

3/4 to 1 cup hot sauce

1 (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds) large chicken breast cut into strips or chunks

Heat all ingredients, except chicken, together. Pour over meat and bake uncovered in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes. May serve over rice. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Regency Beef Tenderloin

1 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 bunch green onions chopped

3 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 (5- to 6-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed

Combine ingredients, except beef tenderloin. Stir well. Place tenderloin in large dish or zip-top bag. Pour marinade over tenderloin and seal the bag tightly. Marinate in refrigerator for 8 hours, turning occasionally. Remove tenderloin from marinade; keep marinade. Bring marinade to boil in sauce pan set aside. Bake tenderloin on rack in shallow pan in a 325-degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat thermometer reads 145 degrees for medium rare or 160 for medium, basting occasionally with marinade. Let stand 10 minute before slicing serve with Royal Butter. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Royal Butter:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup horseradish, drained

Combine all ingredients. Beat with mixer until smooth and blended. Serve at room temperature with meat.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648 or email