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A TV show about the city's restaurant scene

By From the Lowell Sun

Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- The legendary Boott Mill sandwich at Arthur's Diner has been around since the mills were running.

The sandwich -- fried eggs, home fries, bacon, sausage, ham and cheese tucked into a warm bun -- is as Lowellesque a feed as they come.

Add the super burrito at the Mambo Grill, the Market Street sandwich at Olive That and More and an iced hot chocolate at The Coffee Mill and you get the flavor of What's Cookin' in Mill City.

The new TV show run by UMass Lowell students and Lowell TeleCommunications Corporation, set to air on Channel 8 next week, is a restaurant tour of Lowell. One part Phantom Gourmet, one part TV Diner, the half-hour show samples the latest, oldest and most dyed-in-the-gravy culinary experience downtown.

Wrapping up a show on diners last week, producer John Ogden, a 23-year-old UMass Lowell student, sits at Arthur's counter, drinking in the scene. Wearing a worn baseball hat and jeans, he fits in with the college kids gossiping over eggs and coffee in the booths. Jotting down notes in a book, Ogden doesn't have to do too much research. This has been his favorite restaurant since he was small.

"The ham Boott Mill is the best," said Ogden, who grew up in Lowell.

With funding from the university, Ogden worked all summer to put several episodes of What's Cookin' to bed. In his field work, he found a new thriving dining scene.

"I had no idea there were so many new restaurants downtown," said Ogden, who hopes to land a job in television when he graduates this year.

Learning how to block a shot, write a script and white balance is part of this TV production course, but teacher Bridget Driscoll has bigger goals.

"It's another opportunity for the university to forge ties with the business community. It gives students an opportunity to learn and feeds into the new communications courses the university is beginning to offer," said Driscoll, one of the coordinators of communications at UMass.

Because students are lining up for classes like TV production, she hopes that communications will eventually become a major at the school.

What's Cookin' in Mill City will start out focused on restaurants, but it could grow to reflect other college-age interests.

"We are hoping to keep it in the community, but might do a different segment on bar-hopping, arts and parks," said Ogden.

But the few shows that have wrapped on restaurants should attract viewers.

"Anytime you put food together with an area that folks are familiar with, it's really exciting," said Robert Haigh, executive director for LTC.

And as far as restaurant owners are concerned, any publicity is good publicity,

"Hopefully it does some good for the downtown. It can use all the help it can get right now," said Paul Delisle, owner of Arthur's Diner.

To view streaming video of the show, go to Look for "What's Cookin' in Mill City" to start airing in September on Channel 8.