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Danas Family Kitchen: Food, Friends And Fun
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Dana Johnson is the founder of Danas Family Kitchen, teaches at Modesto Junior College, and has a cooking segment on Fox 40 the first Friday of every month. VIRGINIA STILL/The Leader

With a love for food, local resident Dana Johnson is sharing ideas, teaching people how to cook, and hosting a live segment on television’s Fox 40 in Sacramento.

Johnson and a few other moms were having lunch one day in Oakdale when the topic came up about her recipes and a friend suggested that she should teach a class. After that the ideas started flowing for Johnson.

After contacting the Ripon Community Center, Parks and Recreation, and the Casa De Community Center, Johnson got permission to hold cooking classes in her home as long as the students signed a waiver.

“The mom I was talking to said it would be fun to teach a couples class since I always have creative ideas,” said Johnson. “People used to call me and ask me what I was making for dinner because they needed inspiration.”

Being a picky eater herself and having several allergies, Johnson had to be creative with food. She started teaching a cooking class and then entered a contest that she saw on TV. The contest was the “Build a Better Lunch” with KCRA Channel 3 News and Mercy Hospital for kids. The lunch that she created was a fruit sandwich with almond butter and featured two full servings of fruit and one full serving of vegetables so kids got three of the five servings that are required daily. Johnson was inspired by a woman in her cooking class that had a son with a peanut allergy. He could not eat peanut butter but as long as the almonds were not processed in a peanut plant he could eat almond butter.

“The sandwich was tested on approximately 400 kids and they loved my lunch so much that I won the contest and they flew me to New York City to watch a taping of the Rachael Ray Show,” said Johnson.

During the taping of the show Johnson was able to meet Rachael Ray and it also happened to be her birthday. So Ray paid for Johnson and a guest to enjoy a birthday dinner at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Restaurant.

“We were treated like royalty,” said Johnson. “It was amazing.”

Always looking to hone her craft, Johnson explores various cooking websites and is a frequent visitor to and for $25 per year anyone can become a member. Johnson suggested that it is best for people to read the rules and make sure that they meet the criteria for each contest the site offers. The contests at times will include professionals and sometimes it is an amateur contest only.

The National Pork Board holds a contest every year and Johnson entered “The Next Pork Personality” in 2009. She took third place in the Live Grill-Off at the 2009 Food Network Wine and Food Festival held in New York City with Chef Guy Fieri as the celebrity judge.

Johnson submitted a two minute video that her son produced and made a recipe that included three different cuts of pork. Along with the video contestants were asked to give a pork tip so Johnson decided to create a jingle instead. The jingle is as follows, “We all know how to use a rub; we all know how to use a marinade so try Dana’s way and incorporate.”

She also created a jingle for the apron she wore during the Live Grill-Off competition that read, “Whether you’re serving it from a trough or from a silver platter use pork, the other white meat, when the best really matters.”

Prior to going to New York City, Johnson was asked to do a segment at Fox 40 News in Sacramento. The segment is live so mistakes can happen and Johnson expressed that anchor Paul Robbins has bailed her out a few times. After doing a few random segments, Johnson was asked to hold a regular spot on the first Friday of the month in the 9 a.m. hour. For the past four years, Johnson has had a regular cooking segment once a month on Fox 40 and said that she feels at home when she is there.

“I take different guests on with me,” said Johnson. “I did a segment on fresh herbs with Danalicious original recipes and then I gave them a challenge to make a dessert with fresh herbs to make it fun.”

After the cooking segment everyone in the studio gets to sample the food, so they typically have a little party on Friday with great food.

Johnson believes that Robbins was instrumental in getting her a regular spot on Fox and said she is very grateful to him.

“He is a true professional, I so admire him,” said Johnson. “He’s just a good person all the way around.”

Along with the cooking segment on Fox 40, Johnson also does private catering and private cooking parties that she calls Dana’s Family Kitchen. She will hold a cooking party for a minimum of 10 people for approximately three hours, showcasing 10 to 13 original recipes. Johnson will do demonstrations and allow some hands on, but not everyone will cook. A menu is created like an all Italian menu or an all dessert party like one of her clients requested.

“They leave with all the recipes and we eat the whole way through,” said Johnson. “I supply all the food but I do not supply the alcohol.”

Dana’s Family Kitchen will travel throughout the area and has gone as far as Lake Tahoe for a private party.

Johnson also teaches a cooking class at Modesto Junior College through their community classes for adults. She stated that the classes are offered occasionally and the next one will be starting in April 2014.

Although Johnson has not had any technical training she does have a love for food and new creations come into her head faster than she can write them down. Her inspiration came from her grandmother who is now 98 and “still an amazing cook,” Johnson explained, and her grandmother’s best friend.

“I spent a lot of time there as a kid and they used to throw the most amazing parties,” said Johnson of her grandmother and her grandmother’s friend. “I would sit there and watch them at the stove laughing and carrying on. I got to try it all.”

The dream of a lifetime for Johnson would be to host her own cooking show and that is what she hopes the future holds for her.

For more information or for recipe ideas, log onto Facebook and look up Dana’s Family Kitchen or email her at