Education at Le Jeune Chef Extends Beyond Culinary Arts Students

Published 02.10.2005

Student News

Le Jeune Chef Restaurant on the campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology attempts to offer an "Education in Fine Dining" not only to the College's School of Hospitality students but also to its patrons, which include high-school students from the region.

This semester, students from East Juniata, Jersey Shore Area, Central Mountain, Montoursville Area, Shikellamy and Warrior Run high schools will visit the restaurant on "Classical Cuisine" evenings, which feature menus that change each week to feature traditional foods from various international regions, such as the French mountains, Northern Italy or Germany. The food is prepared by Culinary Arts students, who take turns managing various stations in the kitchen.

Penn College's fine-dining establishment offers educational experience to students and patrons alike."The kids absolutely love going there," said Christine Rupert, who teaches French courses at Montoursville Area High School. She takes students in the school's French Club to Le Jeune Chef. "They enjoy the culture and being able to try new foods that they've never been able to try anywhere else around here," she added. Her students will visit on an evening that features food from the Gascony and Languedoc regions of France.

When students from the French Club at Shikellamy High School visit Le Jeune Chef, they will experience food from France's Bordeaux region. The school's Spanish and German clubs also visit the restaurant on appropriate evenings.

"We try to offer as many opportunities as we can for them to experience various cultures and foods," said Bonna Cafiso, who teaches French at Shikellamy. She tries to take her students to the restaurant as many times as the restaurant's schedule will allow, twice a semester when possible.

Joanne Heimer, who teaches French courses at Central Mountain High School, takes French Club students from both the high school and Central Mountain Middle School to Le Jeune Chef. She said since the students are familiar with varying levels of the French language, they are not required to speak in French for the evening, but they usually order menu items by attempting the French wording rather than pointing or using the English translation.

"They practice. They learn words and they ask how to say things. They discuss various ingredients on the plate," Heimer said.

The teachers said the evening fits into the curriculum of their French courses, in which they talk about French cuisine and traditional or special-occasion meals that come in courses, allowing time in between to socialize.

"They don't have an opportunity to see that except at Le Jeune," Heimer said.

"It really fits in well with my curriculum because I teach foods," Rupert said. Her second-year French students create a French menu that must include various entree prices (in Euros) and a restaurant name.

Cafiso said her students are sometimes also treated to a kitchen tour. "We do some cooking in class and sample some foods, but it's not quite the same thing," she said.

Chef Paul Mach, assistant professor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts, teaches the "Classical Cuisines" course and said that, when the groups' schedules allow, dining-room managers often take them behind the scenes. There, they get to see the flurry of activity in the kitchen that takes the food they are about to eat from raw ingredients to a gourmet dish.

"It's a whole different style of cooking and a different style of dining," Mach said.

According to the teachers, it is not only the old-world cuisine that excites students but also the fine-dining atmosphere, which is new to many of them. Rupert said she thinks the students enjoy dressing up, spending an adult-like evening and "being served so elegantly."

The teachers said the students love the "little touches," such as a server placing a napkin on their lap, having a chest of tea choices brought to the table, or finding cloth hand towels in the restrooms.

Heimer said, "Little touches like that are just really special; the kids just love that."

Cafiso noted that another special touch for the students is meeting the chef. Mach said he tries to step out of the kitchen to speak with each school group, finding out what unfamiliar foods they tried.

"It's always fun to the see the reaction," he said.

While many high-school foreign-language clubs also take an annual trip to a large city, where they may eat in a French, German or Spanish restaurant, the cost makes it less accessible.

"It's a little treasure close to home we have here at Le Jeune Chef.... I'm glad that they do offer it to the schools," Cafiso said.

"We're really happy to be able to take our students. It's such an asset for our community... for our region, I think," Heimer said. "French cuisine in this area is just not something we find.,,, To find something so locally and so excellent is just very much an asset."

During the Spring 2005 semester, Classical Cuisine dinners will be offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Le Jeune Chef is also open for dinner on Fridays, when students from the Regional American Cuisine course prepare characteristic fare from various regions of North America, and on Saturdays, when the restaurant's professional staff and student interns prepare a multicourse gourmet meal. Students also manage the kitchen during brunch on Sundays and help to prepare lunch on weekdays.

For more information or to make reservations, call (570) 320-CHEF. Find menus and additional information on the Web.