“Chef Amy, how is that food coming along?” asks a volunteer cook.
A bubbly-demeanored woman emerges from behind an oven with an apron and her hair tied back in a ponytail. She carries a large tray of steaming corned beef and sets it on the kitchen table at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Bethpage.
“Comin’ right up!” she replies with a smile.
For 27 years, Amy Breidenbach, 53, has been serving up authentic Irish recipes for the town’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and reception, which took place Sunday. The Bethpage native said it’s important to keep tradition alive, especially in a place she has always called home.
“I’ve been cooking here since the inception of the parade and this is a pretty big event for the town,” she said. “Years ago I used to make all the food but now I just mostly volunteer my time — B.K. Sweeney’s Parkside Tavern makes a lot of it now — and we help assemble the kitchen. We have everything from corned beef and cabbage, shepherd pies, potatoes, cole slaw and different sandwiches.”
Breidenbach, now a Seaford resident and chef who manages two restaurants there, said she loves cooking and coordinating for the Bethpage parade, which includes performances by the American Celtic Pipe Band and the Schade Academy Irish step dancing team. Afterward, residents and parade-goers venture to the church basement to get a taste of Ireland.
“I think this is a big help because they do a lot of work for this parade and volunteers have been here for years,” she said. “It always brings me back to my roots and it’s like one big Bethpage family.’’
“It’s really a labor of love,” she added. “This is what I do, so if I can offer my services for one day a year for a good cause, then I’m all about it.”