Visiting Chef Series Celebrates 25th Anniversary

by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/magazine editor

In April, Pennsylvania College of Technology celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Visiting Chef Series with a group of culinary giants who, like all its Visiting Chefs, devoted hours in the college’s kitchens and classrooms, imparting wisdom as they led students to create a one-of-a-kind meal.

Chefs Rick Tramonto, John Folse and Donald Wressell – all with remarkable international culinary accolades – joined forces with 2011 Penn College alumna Chef Elaine Gardner for the sold-out event that benefits students in many ways: through live-event learning, industry connections, inspiration and scholarships that are funded by the proceeds of the Visiting Chef Dinner.

The series’ first installment was held in April 1992, not long after Chef Mary Trometter, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts, joined the faculty.

“Our goal was to seek out industry professionals who could inspire our students and be willing to share their expertise and passion for what they do with our students, staff and guests in our wonderful Le Jeune Chef Restaurant,” Trometter said.

The first of those was Chef Richard L. Kimble Jr., who graduated from Penn College forerunner Williamsport Area Community College in 1981 and was head saucier at New York’s famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel. 

“Our students will be able to experience working with chefs, we hope, from all across the U.S. This will expose them to the professionalism of the business and the real excitement that’s possible in their career field,” Ann Miglio, then-department head of food and hospitality management/culinary arts, told the college magazine in 1992.

With a roster of more than 50 chefs who have traveled from across the U.S., from Maine to Hawaii, to give their time and talents to the Visiting Chef Series, that vision has been met.  ■

During preparation for the college’s first Visiting Chef dinner in 1992, students Ric Newton and Vanessa Buck study the technique of Visiting Chef Richard L. Kimble Jr. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel.During preparation for the college’s first Visiting Chef dinner in 1992, students Ric Newton and Vanessa Buck study the technique of Visiting Chef Richard L. Kimble Jr.

Fall 2002 Visiting Chef Todd Downs, of Mrs. Park’s Tavern at Doubletree Guest Suites in Chicago, instructs a student on plating for the evening’s second course: Jamison Farm Lamb-Two Ways. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel. Fall 2002 Visiting Chef Todd Downs, of Mrs. Park’s Tavern at Doubletree Guest Suites in Chicago, instructs a student on plating for the evening’s second course: Jamison Farm Lamb-Two Ways.

Amber A. Kreitzer, of Port Trevorton, carefully aligns bonbons for 2017’s post-dinner dessert reception. Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. Amber A. Kreitzer, of Port Trevorton, carefully aligns bonbons for 2017’s post-dinner dessert reception.

A “Wild Beast Feast” in 1997 featured Chefs John Folse, Charles Carroll, Guy DiSalvo and Jack Braun, with assistants Michael Foucqueteau, David Harris and Carol Gunter. Also in the photo are Penn College staff and faculty members Mary G. Trometter, Monica J. Lanczak, Paul E. Mach, Frederick W. Becker, Robert L. Twine, Stephen A. Manley, Linda J. Miller, Eileen A. Ambrose, Craig A. Cian and Michael J. Ditchfield, and the late William Butler, the school dean. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel. A “Wild Beast Feast” in 1997 featured Chefs John Folse, Charles Carroll, Guy DiSalvo and Jack Braun, with assistants Michael Foucqueteau, David Harris and Carol Gunter. Also in the photo are Penn College staff and faculty members Mary G. Trometter, Monica J. Lanczak, Paul E. Mach, Frederick W. Becker, Robert L. Twine, Stephen A. Manley, Linda J. Miller, Eileen A. Ambrose, Craig A. Cian and Michael J. Ditchfield, and the late William Butler, the school dean.

I have learned so much from our visiting chefs and visiting industry professionals. I have grown technically and professionally, plus just had a lot of fun watching beautiful food being combined with fabulous wine over the years – all produced by students in collaboration with staff and faculty. – Chef Mary G. Trometter, ’84, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts.
– Chef Mary G. Trometter, ’84, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts

As a result of funds raised through the Visiting Chef Series, the Visiting Chef scholarship fund has a balance of nearly $162,000 and currently awards seven $1,000 scholarships annually to students in hospitality-related majors. Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. As a result of funds raised through the Visiting Chef Series, the Visiting Chef scholarship fund has a balance of nearly $162,000 and currently awards seven $1,000 scholarships annually to students in hospitality-related majors.

My favorite memories

Some of my favorite memories were spent in the plating lineup in the kitchen, waiting in line to pick up plates, interactions with guests, and the cleanup dance party in the dining room afterward. It was always amazing to see how we, as students, came together to produce great food and an amazing dining experience. … Some of the lessons I learned as a student were to never pass up an opportunity, jump in and get your hands dirty, and patience when teaching those with less experience. The experiences and education I received have helped me to get where I am today, and I owe it to the chefs and staff of the School of Hospitality. Thank you!
– Brianna Helmick-Phillips, ’15, sous chef,
Louisiana State University

We all laughed so much

My absolute favorite Visiting Chef Series was with Joseph Poon, where he not only introduced us to fusion cuisine and his incredible story of working his way up into a leadership role and business owner, but he made all the hard work fun.

I remember being so impressed with the vegetable carvings and the simple menu items, heightened with bright colors and flavors. I had a ball designing monkeys on plates and making fortune cookies in the pastry kitchen. We all laughed so much, and his incredible energy is something I role-modeled in all of my leadership roles. He was also incredibly patient and took the time to teach everyone, which still, to this day, stands out as something I expect from myself as a leader.
– Tacy (DeGreen) Schuler, ’05 and ’07, sales representative, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars

In 2003, a student works alongside Chef David Robins, then-executive pastry chef for the Corner Café and Buckhead Bread Co. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel. In 2003, a student works alongside Chef David Robins, then-executive pastry chef for the Corner Café and Buckhead Bread Co.

Students gather around Spring 2003 Visiting Chef Jeff Vosburgh, then-executive chef of Georgian Terrace Hotel. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel. Students gather around Spring 2003 Visiting Chef Jeff Vosburgh, then-executive chef of Georgian Terrace Hotel.

During his sixth visit in 2005, Chef John Folse gathers with students and staff outside Le Jeune Chef Restaurant. Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. During his sixth visit in 2005, Chef John Folse gathers with students and staff outside Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

Student Sarah E. Myers during a 2017 pre-dinner reception. Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. Student Sarah E. Myers during a 2017 pre-dinner reception.

Jacob O. Spencer assembles a tiny garden of vegetables, panna cotta, crème fraiche and edible “soil” under the direction of 2016’s Chef David Danielson, of Churchill Downs.  Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. Jacob O. Spencer assembles a tiny garden of vegetables, panna cotta, crème fraiche and edible “soil” under the direction of 2016’s Chef David Danielson, of Churchill Downs.

A highlight of my school days

Jean-Louis Palladin was the Visiting Chef in the spring of 1996. Dr. (Robert L.) Breuder (then-Penn College president) took him pheasant hunting the morning of the dinner, and they returned with a dozen pheasants and a couple of woodcocks. Chef, his assistant, myself and another student broke the birds down into pieces, and I started to brown them per Chef’s instructions. The bones and trim were put into the tilting skillet with the woodcocks and mirepoix, with some fresh herbs. A gallon of ready-made stock was added, then our sommelier brought Chef two cases of red wine. Jean-Louis grabbed four or five bottles under each arm and poured the wine into the skillet. The second time he did this, he dropped three or four of the bottles, and they broke, creating an unexpected mess. … Chef let me help make the finished product, which was used to make pheasant au vin for a VIP photo shoot late in the afternoon, before dinner service.

I was picked to be one of the finish cooks for the meal that night, which was one of the highlights of my Penn College school days. Jean-Louis only spoke in French to the sous chef he brought with him during prep and service. He expected the best effort and didn’t hesitate to let you know if something wasn’t exactly the way it should be. I later worked out the rough details of working with him the following summer in D.C., but he moved to Las Vegas. I still have the note he wrote to me saying that it wouldn’t be possible for me to work with him that summer. I worked almost all of the Visiting Chef Series dinners from 1995 until 2015, as a student and then as the professional staff dinner chef, and it remains a favorite for me.
– Chef Robert Armstrong, ’98, retired sous chef, Le Jeune Chef Restaurant

Record returns

Chef John Folse, an internationally recognized restaurateur, public-television host, author and industry leader who has taken Louisiana cuisine worldwide, has served as a Penn College Visiting Chef seven times.

Others who have made at least two visits are:

Donald Barickman
of Magnolias, Charleston, S.C.
Phillip Brown
of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Charles Carroll
of River Oaks Country Club, Houston, Texas
Leah Chase
of Dooky Chase’s, New Orleans, La.
Timothy Eldridge
of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Andrew Masciangelo,’97
of Savona, Gulph Mills, Pa.

Alumni Visiting Chefs

Callie Chalmers, ’08
Dennis Eckrote, ’97
Scott Endy, ’96*
Elaine Gardner, ’11
Richard L. Kimble, ’81
Andrew Masciangelo, ’97
Kristi (Ritchey) Genova , ’02
Errol Walters, ’04

*Spring 2012 Visiting Chef Scott Endy died in 2013.

Chef Joseph Poon, of Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant in Philadelphia, offers a demonstration for the public in Fall 2004. Photo by Jennifer A. Cline. Chef Joseph Poon, of Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant in Philadelphia, offers a demonstration for the public in Fall 2004.