Somerset County News

Emmy Award Eludes Somerville TV Producer – But She Did Get to Walk Down the Red Carpet

Stephanie Zaita Peterson and her husband Adam on the red carpet at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards in Philadelphia. Credits: Courtesy Stephanie Zaita Peterson

PHILADELPHIA – The coveted Emmy Award, the epitome of success in the television industry, eluded Somerville, NJ television producer Stephanie Zaita Peterson, but there is some consolation.

It’s not every day that you get to walk down the red carpet of fame.

That’s just one of the memories she and her husband Adam brought back home with them after a whirlwind trip to the city of Brotherly Love for the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards Dinner and Awards Saturday night.

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“We didn't walk away with an Emmy but who could feel bad with all the support from family and friends. I am truly blessed!,” she wrote on Facebook Sunday afternoon.

Zaita Peterson, a veteran of behind-the-camera work on the west coast and New York City, is the executive producer of “Culture Kitchen,” a 30-minute show that celebrates local families’ ethnic dessert recipes along with the culture that produced the recipe. Episodes are filmed in the kitchen and include step-by-step preparation of the dessert, interviews with the family and snippets of information about the culture of the featured country. 

The Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards were presented Saturday night at the Marriott Hotel in Center City. Zaita Peterson, her husband, and others involved with the production, along with hundreds of other nominees and their entourages, sat down at 7 p.m. for dinner, followed by four hours of awards, applause, gushing, tears and thank yous.

There were dozens of award categories, including local news, documentaries, entertainment, sports, business and others;  Zaita Peterson’s “Culture Kitchen” was slotted in the Lifestyle Program/Special category against one other entry, a well-financed, on-site production entitled “Grenada – The Spice Island – A Taste of History.”

“I knew going in it was going to be tough.” Zaita Peterson said. “The other team had already won six Emmys – and they won four more last night - so they were tough to beat. We were the underdogs so I wasn’t shocked that we didn’t win, but of course, we had hoped we would.”

Finally, more than 3 hours after dinner and long after dessert, the winner of Category #46 – Lifestyle Program/Special - was announced. 

“Right before they got to our category my heart started beating faster, I kept going over my speech in my head - just in case, you have to be prepared either way - it was disappointing for just a minute,” she said, “but I was so proud of what we did and that we even got the nomination. I really wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I might be,” she added.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and come back another year.”

The “Culture Kitchen” episode nominated for the Emmy Award was filmed in Somerville last October with the Meulenberg family in their kitchen.

Zaita Peterson’s production team included James Masi, director of Photography; Craig Casey, senior editor; Jeff Pinedo, camera assistant, Jessica Dale, associate producer and Brittany Linton, lighting assistant.

The show focused on Hayden Meulenberg, now a second-grader at Van Derveer School,  who puts on a chef hat and apron and learns how to prepare Pannekoekenm, a traditional Dutch pancake with guidance from his parents, Michial and Karen.

What we put on our tables at home and eat for dinner is reflective of who we are, how we grew up and where we come from, according to Peterson.

“Culture Kitchen” is a celebration of the diversity within our community,” Peterson said. “We’re trying to get families to share recipes that have been passed down through the generations that are indicative of their native homeland.”

During the episode, the Meulenbergs talk about growing up in Holland and their son looks for answers to trivia questions about Holland from his friends.

The nominated episode was funded by the Somerville Business & Professional Association. It aired in November over several weeks on Verizon FIOS Channel 30 and Cablevision Channel 15.

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