Bayhealth-Milford Memorial Hospital Employee of the Year Barbara Bunting shares her culinary secrets.

When it comes to good cooking, Barbara C. Bunting takes the cake – or rather, the peanut butter fudge.

The goober-based confection is one of Bunting's specialties, and one of the most requested items on the menu at Bayhealth-Milford Memorial Hospital, where she was named Employee of the Year during ceremonies held May 8.

Bunting joined the hospital in July 2006, where she now serves as the lead catering assistant.

It was an unexpected honor for Bunting, 55, who has been cooking professionally almost full time since she started working at her sister's daycare 30 years ago.

Q. Just exactly what does a lead catering assistant do?

A. I do all the catering for special meetings, board dinners or doctors meetings where they have food. I don't do it all by myself, of course, the cooks help me with the job. They help me look good.

Q. What is your typical day like?

A. Hectic! I started today at 6:30 a.m. and the first thing I found was three new orders for today. Usually I get two or three days notice. Sometimes when the doctors are tied up in the operating room, they won't know when they can have lunch. I'll take something down there so they can grab some food and get back to work.

If an emergency comes in, then they change their plans and I change my plans to help them.

Q. Surely your days aren't always that busy.

A. No. Some days I get to try experimenting. If someone makes a suggestion to me for something to try, I'll go through my cookbooks to find the right recipe. I keep some of them here at work, but I'll go through my cookbook collection at home.

Q. How do you know what to try?

A. When I get a cookbook, I sit down and don't get up until I've noted every recipe I want to try. My husband, Bruce, thank goodness, doesn't mind being a guinea pig. The supervisors here try it, too, to see what they think. If I make something I don't like, then they won't ever get to see it. I won't serve anything I won't eat myself.

Q. What are some of your most-requested recipes?

A. Chicken salad. I like to mix it up with my chicken salad. Someone once asked me to try cranberries in it, and I liked it so I started to put them in. I get teased about my chicken salad and fudge, homemade peanut butter fudge. They tear it up. And my banana bread, too.