Hospitality Students Get a Taste of Management in Le Jeune Chef

Published 09.27.2004

Student News

At Le Jeune Chef Restaurant on the campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology, students this fall will help to run the restaurant's kitchen as they provide the public with a taste of foods from across America.

On Wednesday and Friday of each week, a School of Hospitality student from the College's Regional American Cuisine class serves as student manager/sous chef. On his or her assigned shift, each student helps to manage the fine-dining restaurant's kitchen, which includes developing the menu for the evening.

Those menus change each week, as students present characteristic fare from a different region of the United States. Themes range from California fusion to New England favorites.

"They work with me and do all the recipe work, station assignments and assign other responsibilities," said Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts. "They are at a point in their college careers where they are still learning to manage others. Essentially, they are my assistant, or sous chef."

In addition to developing menus, the student managers estimate costs, standardize and convert recipes, and are in charge of a sanitation checklist, closing procedures and staff distribution.

"This is as close to 'real world' as it gets," Ditchfield said. "Many of our students are going to make a career working on the line the classical brigade in a fine-dining restaurant. They will work into a management, executive-chef or ownership position."

The course gives them a taste of kitchen management in a restaurant that draws patrons from several counties across the region. While one student serves as student manager during each shift, others perform a variety of kitchen duties. A total of 18 students will participate.

Mark R. Enis, State College, presented "Nature's Bounty" on Sept. 15. "My Regional menu offered the finest local products from small, sustainable farms to capture the flavors harvested at their peak," Enis said. "An example of two of my entrees are wood-grilled elk with caramelized onions, potatoes and a dried-cherry sauce, and baked trout and andouille sausage with polenta fries."

Matthew J. McKalips, McClure, presented "Nature's Bounty" on Sept. 17. His menu featured fresh, in-season items from "local organic farmers that bring their best products to us." He said, "These are the best-tasting vegetables and meats possible."

Jamie M. Boucher, Prince Frederick, Md., presented "California Fusion" on Sept. 22. Her menu featured a variety of dishes that feature the varied cultural regions of California, including a rich, roasted eggplant and garlic soup and entrees that showcase mahi mahi, swordfish, veal and squab, along with specialty desserts.

Jennifer R. McHenry, Lock Haven, presented "California Fusion" on Sept. 24. Her menu emphasized the blending of California cuisine with that of Mexican, Asian and Pacific cultures. Her dishes will take advantage of fresh ingredients readily available in California.

James A. Jones, East Stroudsburg, will present "New Orleans" on Sept. 29. His menu will feature traditional Creole cooking. He said he loves using his creativity to invent dishes.

Matthew G. Wessner, Kutztown, will present "New Orleans" on Oct. 1. "The menu is based on the Creole cooking style, therefore the food is derived from the French style of cooking, but with some variations," he said. Most of his dishes will originate from the New Orleans region and contain a lot of spice and aromatics. He said many of the dishes also include rabbit, sausage or seafood.

Edward J. Halat, Dupont, will present "The Southwest" on Oct. 6 and 13. He will present a selection of foods that relate to the Southwest region, with some extra ideas thrown in. Some of his menu items are lobster enchiladas, grilled avocado soup with tangerine-lime sorbet, and smoked Texas game bird with Southwest vegetables and Mexican marigold mint vinaigrette.

Kimberly A. Donahey, Bellefonte, will present "The Southwest" on Oct. 8. She plans to create dishes that contain common Southwest ingredients, such as corn, tomatillos, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, coconut, cinnamon and mint. Donahey said the dishes she has chosen "contain an element of spiciness with a great amount of bold flavor."

Chad A. Hill, Allenwood, will present "Chesapeake Bay" on Oct. 20. His menu will include bayside picnic appetizers, oyster stew, sauteed soft-shell crabs with spinach fettuccine and a roast-red-pepper coulis, and seared tuna with chanterelle mushrooms, lentils and a veal-stock reduction.

Mary F. Grantham, Brookeville, Md., will present "Chesapeake Bay" on Oct. 22. Her six-course meal begins with an assortment of appetizers that includes ribs, mussels, shrimp, clams and oysters to give diners a feel of the region's seafood. She promises a choice of salad and entrees that will give customers' taste buds a lasting impression of varied flavor combinations.

Ryan M. Smithson, Purcellville, Va., will present "Pacific Rim" on Oct. 27. His menu will feature a variety of products with Pacific influences, starting with a salmon-and-scallop ceviche. Entrees will include grilled tuna, seared venison, a salmon-and-oyster plate and marinated pork tenderloin.

Joshua M. Houser, Halifax, will present "Pacific Rim" on Oct. 29. His menu will include foods from various regions of the Pacific Rim, such as western Canada, China, South Korea and the Philippines.

Nathan S. Marshall, State College, will present "The Deep South" on Nov. 3. He will serve a six-course meal of finely picked and prepared products that includes pork pierogies with Roquefort cheese, creamy peanut-butter soup, sauteed grouper with crayfish grits and corn-and-leek cream, and Low-Country Chicken and Shrimp with red rice and smoky maple pinto beans.

Adam A. Thompson, Trout Run, will present "The Deep South" on Nov. 5. His menu will feature dishes that combine spices and ingredients that have been used for generations in the Deep South.

Ashley L. Snook, Julian, will present "Heartland" on Nov. 10. Her appetizers include goat-cheese and mushroom tarts and corn dogs with plum chutney. She will also offer Amish potato salad with sweetbreads and bacon. Her entrees will include marinated beef sirloin with grit fries and buffalo with Maytag blue cheese and roasted potatoes.

Christine L. Faherty, Wantage, N.J., will present "Heartland" on Nov. 12. Her menu will emphasize various game meats, such as duck and buffalo. She will also use many native vegetables and make such dishes as potato salad and sauerkraut.

Chelsea H. Taylor, Williamsport, will present "New England" on Nov. 17. Her menu will feature seafood and game, along with produce common to New England.

Rachel S. Hall, Altoona, will present "New England" on Nov. 19. Her menu features dishes that reflect the people, culture and food tradition of New England and autumn. The dishes will contain seafood, game, seasonal vegetables and lobster.

While dinner is served from 5:30 to 8 p.m., the students work from noon to 10 p.m.

"What I often enjoy most is that it's like a sport," Ditchfield said. "Every afternoon it's preparation, and every night at 5:30 is kickoff. Every night is our big game. We have a lot of balls in the air, a lot of multi-tasking, a lot of adrenaline, and the pressure is always there. You have to like stress. I've learned to turn stress, pressure and apprehension into drive. We need to be result-oriented and make it happen."

Le Jeune Chef, translated "the young chef," is operated by the School of Hospitality at Penn College. It is a fine-dining experience that offers real-world practice to students in majors such as Baking & Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts Technology and Hospitality Management. It also is one of the most highly sought-after dining pleasures in the Williamsport area and offers the region's most extensive and award-winning wine list.

Students also prepare classical cuisine, from such regions as Burgundy, France, and Central Italy, on Thursday; lunch, on Tuesday; and breakfast and brunch, on Sunday and Monday.

Le Jeune Chef is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and for lunch Tuesday through Friday. When the kitchen is not staffed by Hospitality classes, professional staff and student interns take over.

To learn more about Le Jeune Chef and the School of Hospitality, including information about the students and their menus, visit the restaurant online , call (570) 320-CHEF or send e-mail . Reservations are recommended.