Local families cook and connect in new show

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Rice Krispie-coated chicken fingers and cereal-infused meatballs? It wasn’t just a kid-friendly meal that celebrity chef Jonathan Scinto whipped up for the first episode of his new show — it was an ode to a lost loved one.

The season premiere of “Family Kitchen Revival” hit Amazon Prime’s streaming service last month, headed by Scinto, a Bellmorite known for his appearances on “Chopped” and other Food Network shows. The eight-episode show features eight local families who overcame personal hardships, preparing inspired dishes together for a wholesome reality experience, Scinto said.

“There are so many reality shows in the country, but there’s none like this,” Scinto told the Herald Life. While most reality shows are extensively edited and scripted, Scinto said that “Revival’s” nature is more “organic.”

“We’re focused on stories and families, and how food connects everyone,” he said. The goal is not to reimagine families’ classic dishes, but rather to “revive” them in creative ways. Using ingredients available at home, families produce revamped meals that are both “affordable and re-creatable,” Scinto said.

At a casting call at Bellmore’s Strawberry Festival in May, Scinto, a graduate of Mepham High School, found a suitable subject in his hometown. Andrew and Keri Oppenheimer, of Bellmore, shared the story of Keri’s sister, Lisa Beadle, who died of a brain tumor five years ago, at age 38. Lisa’s husband, Jim, has been raising their two daughters in Seaford ever since.

“We wanted to honor her memory rather than mourn her loss,” Keri said. The eight hours spent filming were “bittersweet,” she added, and the episode shows a range of emotions. Some of the recollections of their mother brought tears to Amanda, 13, and her sister, Kayla, 9, but others led to smiles.

“I would actually say that they were the rock — they were the strongest and kept me motivated,” Jim said of his daughters in the episode. “[They’re] two of the strongest kids I know.”

Lisa, an at-home special education tutor, developed a glioblastoma in her brain, a tumor that “no one survives,” Keri said. “It’s the most torturous way a person can lose their place on earth.” The cancer affected Lisa’s ability to speak, and eventually she was unable to talk.

For their “Revival” dish, which Amanda and Kayla prepared in the Oppenheimers’ Bellmore home, Lisa’s favorite recipes were served, but with a twist. Fried chicken fingers were coated with crushed Rice Krispie treats, and meatball hoagies were prepared with sprinkles of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The two made sure to wear blue rubber gloves while cooking — a common practice for Lisa, who didn’t like touching raw chicken.

“When the gloves went on, they both said they felt a connection to their mother,” Andrew said. “Once they got into the groove, they enjoyed every minute of it.”

With the table set and dinner served, Amanda and Kayla gave their father heartfelt thanks for keeping food on the table. “We are just such a happy family, and we are thankful for the life you’ve given the girls without their mom,” Keri said to Jim in the episode. “I know Lisa is looking down on all three of you and is so proud.”

The entire first season of “Revival” is now available on Amazon Prime, and stars families from Lindenhurst, Central Islip, Valley Stream and another from Seaford. It will soon be available on Roku streaming via Glewed TV, according to Scinto.

“So many of these situations go on in the world, and they’re ignored,” Scinto said, “but people need to see that there’s hope.”