A cook for all occasions: Marcellus mom named top-20 chef by ABC

Ruth Anne Reagan, of Marcellus, is a top 20 finalist in Nightline's "People's Platelist" contest, which asked viewers to nominate their favorite local chef by writing a letter of 500 words or less. Out of the 20 finalists, Reagan stands out -- she's the only one who doesn't cook for a restaurant.

Reagan was nominated by her son Tim, a drama teacher at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

"I watch Nightline, and I kept hearing about this People's Platelist," Reagan said. "And I thought about it and I said, 'My mom's!'"

Ruth Anne is an avid painter and musician, having studied both at Syracuse University. She was once the full-time organist at St. Francis Church, and she still substitutes when she can.

"Although she wouldn't like to be remembered as being a cook, she's pretty amazing when we go to visit," Reagan said. "In the mornings she runs that kitchen like a breakfast diner."

To say Ruth Anne was surprised to make the list would be an understatement.

"I thought at first it was a joke when ABC called," she said. "But it's a real boost."

A mother of eight and a grandmother of many, Ruth Anne's had plenty of mouths to feed over the course of her nearly 60-year marriage to her husband, Bernard. But when she and Bernard first got hitched, she knew little about the trade.

"I could barely make a tuna fish sandwich," she said.

She learned quickly enough, with some help from cookbooks.

"I like to eat, I like food, and I can read!" she said.

Ruth Anne and Bernard have lived on Flower Lane in Marcellus for about 55 years. In that time her kids have grown up to have families and impressive careers -- which Tim artfully addresses in the opening paragraph of his nomination letter:

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