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'Special' at the Diner

Since the Hot Metal Diner opened two years ago along Lebanon Road in West Mifflin, patrons have become accustomed to laughter served as a side with their breakfast or lunch.

Last Tuesday, customers were also served a chance at the illusive 15 minutes of fame. Rick Sebak, a WQED-TV documentary producer, spent four hours at the diner, filming a segment of his upcoming "Breakfast Special."

The diner, owned by Wendy Betten, of South Side, was the first of only two local stops planned; Mr. Sebak also visited Square Café in Regent Square.

Mr. Sebak has produced and narrated 35 "scrapbook" documentaries since 1988, including "Kennywood Memories" and "Things That Aren't There Anymore."

The current project was inspired by Mr. Sebak's "lifelong love of breakfast," a meal he fondly recalls his father preparing. The producer said breakfast restaurants offer a distinct mood with customers often discussing issues over the morning paper. He believes that explains why politicians are seen eating breakfast on the campaign trail, noting Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to the Hot Metal Diner in 2007.

Mr. Sebak didn't know much about the diner until a friend recommended it. He stopped in for breakfast days before filming.

"I thought the vibe was nice and the waitresses were pretty saucy," he said.

Mr. Sebak asked for poached eggs, believing the dish was a good test for the kitchen. It passed.

Mr. Sebak and crew filmed kitchen scenes and did numerous customer interviews.

Ms. Betten was surprised by the number of people who recognized Mr. Sebak.

Though only his voice is heard on the documentaries, many Pittsburghers see him on WQED pledge drives.

"They see me begging for money," he said. "I have a comfortable level of celebrity. I'm no Tom Cruise."

Mr. Sebak expects to begin traveling across the country in the coming weeks. He plans to include up to 20 breakfast locations in New England, the South and possibly Hawaii.

"Breakfast Special" is expected to premier nationally on PBS stations in spring 2010.

Reprinted from:
Good Morning: South
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Thursday, October 22, 2009



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