The Herald, Sharon,
PA= Published Friday, Sept. 27, 1996
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Farrell grad and contest judge cooked up a career change after college

Shawn Starkey
Herald Staff Writer

Diners at J.J.'s Litehouse likely have noticed some menu changes in the past nine months.

The wings and homemade wedding soup and fish for which J.J.'s is known are still there. But 42 specials such as broiled cod with tomato basil sauce over angel hair pasta or chicken tortellini florentine have added a sense of fine dining to the bar and lounge on the Sharon-Farrell border.

``Exceptional specials at exceptional prices'' is how the tavern's executive chef is billing them.

``We're small, but we're special,'' said Ken Creamer, who created the new entrees.

Creamer, 32, is one of three judges for The Herald's annual ``What's Cookin' in Your World'' recipe contest.

photo of judge
Ken Creamer, executive chef at J.J.'s Litehouse, admits his knack for cooking has led to some new specials for the tavern. This year, he'll use those talents to judge The Herald's annual cooking contest.

A Farrell High School graduate, he attended and played football at the former Bishop College, Dallas, where he earned a degree in business management in 1985.

While attending Bishop, he got a job as a steward at a hotel restaurant in Dallas. The chef there took him under his wing and Creamer began what would become his career.

After graduating, Creamer helped with grand openings and training at three TGIFridays restaurants in Raleigh and Durham, both N.C., and Columbia, S.C.

In 1987, he graduated from Pittsburgh Institute of Culinary Arts and interned at Carolina Country Club, Raleigh.

Before coming to Litehouse, Creamer was evening sous chef at Oak Tree Country Club, Shenango Township.

``It's just something I do,'' Creamer said of his cooking. ``I have a knack for it. And I enjoy doing it.'' Creamer handles all the dinner specials, with Litehouse co-owner Jimmy Kollar and cook Rick Mancino handling the rest of the menu. Creamer has known Kollar and his brother, co-owner Jeff Kollar, since seventh grade.

Jimmy Kollar said it was time to bring in someone with Creamer's experience to build up the specials on the menu.

Tuesday, Creamer is coming out with 15 new specials including homemade chicken and dumplings, veal parmesan and roasted veal and peppers.

``I call them my Fall Preview,'' he said.

He's also bringing back the meatloaf and gravy special that kept selling out last winter.

Creamer takes pride in his work, noting J.J.'s doesn't use heat lamps or steam tables to keep foods and sauces warm _ everything is served right from the stove.

``When it gets to the table, I want to see the steam,'' he said.

Creamer puts in nine- to 10-hour shifts six days a week. (He's off Tuesdays.) He comes in about 2 p.m. as Kollar is finishing the lunch crowd and prepares for the dinner crowd which on Fridays can number 230.

Despite the heavy crowd which sees him cooking four entrees at a time and often facing 10 to 15 orders, Creamer isn't hidden away in the kitchen.

``I try to come out every evening so I can talk to all the customers,'' he said. Some nights he even waits tables, asking customers if they enjoyed their meal and to get feedback on his cooking.

In addition to its regular menu, the Litehouse offers three specials from 4 to 10 p.m. each night, except Mondays.

If Creamer's customers have a taste for something that isn't on the menu, he'll bring out his ``Bible'' _ a listing of all his specialities from which they can order.

Creamer said he's a ``working chef'' and not one who sits at a desk and gives orders to others. He even helps with the dishes at the family-owned tavern.

He prefers to saute most items in a wok because it uses less oil and evens out the heat.

``You should not be able to burn anything in a wok,'' he said.

He sticks with virgin olive oil or light butter to offer healthier meals, especially for some of the older folks who frequent J.J.'s.

When cooking for himself or guests in his West Middlesex home, Creamer prefers homemade stir frys.

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