Caption: Jessica Merchant prepares food with her children, Max and Emilia; she also has a 6-month-old son, Jordan.
By Melissa Williams Brown
NORTH HUNTINGDON — Jessica Merchant is a proud product of a Catholic school education from kindergarten through college whose friends and classmates are like family.
There wasn’t a question of where her children would go to school.
“I can’t imagine my kids not having the same experience I did at Queen of Angels,” Merchant said.
She and her husband, Edgar Hunt, are parents of Max, 4, a first-grader; Emilia, 4, a preschooler; and Jordan, 4 months old. They are parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin.
Merchant graduated from Queen of Angels Catholic School in 1997, Greensburg Central Catholic High School in 2001 and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, in 2005. Many of her friends are classmates from all three schools.
A self-employed food blogger and book author for the past 13 years, Merchant released “Everyday Dinners” in May 2021. She published her first book, “Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food,” in 2014, and “The Pretty Dish” in 2018. She runs a food website, howsweeteats.com, about food and life, has a Facebook page and can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Foodgawker.com. She’s been featured in national news publications like The Boston Globe.
Merchant and her staff test, develop and photograph recipes. She writes on her website every day. Her recipes range from healthy to comfort food and indulgent desserts and cocktails. She has no formal culinary training; she says she’s learned along the way. Some day’s recipes turn out well, while others, not so much.
Merchant credits her success and drive to her Catholic school education.
“The Catholic school experience was really like one big, happy family. It was the same in our household. We were very close, and it was like that at Queen of Angels, and a very trusting experience. The teachers and staff at Queen of Angels are so amazing,” she said.
She has the best of both worlds, writing daily about her love of food and living a happy and busy life with her family. She knows that when she is busy writing and cooking, her children are in good hands at Queen of Angels Catholic School.
“You get one-on-one attention that really helped me learn. Our class sizes were 25-30 students. It’s a more intimate setting. The teachers are truly invested in the students’ lives. I had a wonderful Catholic school experience,” Merchant said.
Her siblings attended Catholic high school and college, which she said set the foundation of how to treat others. One of her brothers is a Catholic school teacher.
Merchant said she has been impressed with how the Queen of Angels School staff handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew that our kids were safe. It was the best place for them to be. The teachers and staff are so exceptional. It’s like we hit the jackpot,” she said.
Queen of Angels Catholic School Principal Jennifer Filak said she thinks that one of the things that makes the school so special is the fact that so many alumni send their children there.
“When I talk with these families, I hear time and time again about how lasting impressions of the experiences they had as students of Queen of Angels have been and how much they want their children to experience the same,” she said.
Filak said Queen of Angels Catholic School has always been described as a family-centered community.
“The fact that we have so many legacy families is a testament to that,” she said.