REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.-- The Food Channel promotes Paula Deen, Rachel Ray and others as its wellknown cooking personalities. The Army Contracting Command's answer is Sandy Merritt.

Merritt, a human resources specialist in the ACC Deputy Chief of Staff Human Capital G1, often volunteers her time by creating all types of delicacies for fundraisers and functions. She says cooking is a stress reliever and her passion for the culinary arts is evident in every bite.

Merritt says her family is where her love of cooking stems from, and where many of her recipes come from as well. She has never had any formal training; cooking with her family is how she learned. Her family holiday gatherings attract relatives from throughout the country and everyone seems to take part in the cooking.

"The kitchen is our family's focal point for the holidays," said Merritt, who enjoys baking the most because she is able to do it easily on a daily basis. "It always has been my whole life."

Merritt has three sons, all who grew up with her love of cooking. One became a professional chef while he was in the military, although he has since switched careers. Another has both the talent and the passion but wants to keep the cooking as a joy rather than a job.

Though most of her work is volunteer, Merritt has done a few side projects that have started her thinking about marketing her work in the future and a business name. For now, she said she would just have the cards written up with 'Sandy's Kitchen,' but each of her boys vetoed that.

"They said it was too boring!" she said.

Because she gets volunteered to make something by friends nearly every week, Merritt keeps her basic baking ingredients in stock. During the holidays, she also stocks her pantry with ingredients like pumpkin spice and cranberry filling.

"People always walk in and say it smells so good in my house," she said, "but I'm afraid I'm immune to the smell."

Merritt baked her popular cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats for a back-to-school bash Aug. 12 supporting community activities. Merritt recognizes that people appreciate what she has to offer, but there is a downside to cooking in her own style.

"People ask me all the time for a recipe, and it's so hard to tell someone that I really can't give them anything. I know how to make it, but I really can't write it down," she said.

For now, cooking and baking remain mostly a hobby as Merritt continues her work at ACC. In the future though, she can see herself doing it professionally.

"Maybe when I am retired and I have more time, I'll work part-time. As long as it's still my stress relief, I'll do it," she said with a smile. "Just let me think of a better name besides 'Sandy's Kitchen'!"