Hospitality Students Serve Crowds at Gourmet Harvest Festival

Published 10.10.2005

Baking & Culinary

Fifteen students enrolled in the School of Hospitality at Pennsylvania College of Technology traveled to New York's Finger Lakes region from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 to participate in the 15th Annual Hunt Country Gourmet Harvest Festival.

At the event, hosted by Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, N.Y., students in a catering course offered by the college provided a menu of gourmet food paired with Hunt Country wines.

Student managers for the activity were Justin A. Demi, Williamsport; Rachel S. Hall, Altoona; Phillip E. Heath, Elizabethtown; and Andrea E. Sites, Myerstown. The class is led by Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts.

In addition to the student managers, participating students were: Jamie M. Boucher, Prince Frederick, Md.; Jonathan M. Coldren, Camp Hill; Matthew W. Dickey, Franklin; Mary F. Grantham, Brookeville, Md.; Tana B. Hunsinger, Beavertown; Andrew M. Molino, Muncy; Renee L. Shawver, McClure; Chelsea H. Taylor, Setauket, N.Y.; Mark J. Ulicny, Zionsville; Matthew G. Wessner, Kutztown; and Jennifer D. Woodley, Ebensburg.

The trip also provided an opportunity for the college's quantity baking class, which operates like a wholesale bakery and received the order from the catering class for 15 "chocolate decadence" cakes.

"Some of the comments I heard about our students were about their professionalism and maturity, and rightly so," Ditchfield said. "The core of our class is in our bachelor's degree program. They are a little older and more mature. The menu was pretty ambitious, considering some of the challenges we have at the event."

Part of the challenge is a 100-yard uphill trek from the group's work space in the winery's warehouse − which offers refrigeration and running water − to the tent where the students serve the food. They use a second satellite kitchen and two large grills, and everything is made to order.

"This weekend is so invaluable to the students because it gives them a realistic learning experience that cannot be duplicated in the lab," said Monica J. Lanczak, instructor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts, who accompanied the group to offer public cooking demonstrations, as did Paul E. Mach, assistant professor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts.

"They have to plan the menu, purchase all of the supplies, cook the products, organize all of the equipment to take and then transport it all to the site, unpack, set up, cook, serve their guests all day, and then break it all down and return it to the school," Lanczak continued. "And then, they have to unpack it at the school. It is a window into the world and rigors of off-site catering."

Ditchfield sends his thanks to all those from Penn College who made the trip to enjoy great food and wine. "We saw family, friends and colleagues," he said.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Hospitality, call (570) 327-4505, send e-mail or visit online .