Catering Students to Showcase Local Bounty at Growers Market
Pennsylvania College of Technology students will set up a food station at the Williamsport Growers Market on Saturday, Sept. 8, where they will use the participating growers' products to create a wide variety of sample dishes for the public.
Fourteen students, all enrolled in a Catering course taught by Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts, will take on the challenge their first of many real-life catering projects on the slate for the fall semester.
In the case of the growers market, the students become part of a community event and work directly with the growers who supply their ingredients.
"This is a great event for me as an instructor. It satisfies all the things that I am trying to achieve with the catering class," Ditchfield said. "It's live-event learning. The students have to think critically. They have to problem-solve. They have to ensure customer satisfaction."
"It will be the first event for this group of students," he continued. "It takes a lot of planning, recipe and menu development, and it's physically challenging. It's catering. The folks at the market look forward to the students being there, and the students are really excited about it."
The students are: Joshua A. Aucker, Williamsport; Samuel H. Brechtel, Clarks Summit; Mark R. Capellazzi, Rochester, N.Y.; Danielle N. Castello, Mifflinburg; Christopher D'Annibale, Center Valley; Sarah J. Dries, McEwensville; Michael R. Everd, Baltimore; Joshua J. Fidler, Schuylkill Haven; Angela L. Hess, Williamsport; Annie M. Kinney, Milton; Krystal L. Lewis, Athens; Ronnie E. Lindsay, Bowie, Md.; James B. Miller, South Williamsport; and Derek Richards, Lititz.
The students prepare the free samples on-site and offer recipes for each dish. All the products used in the samples are donated by the growers and by Helmrich's Seafood.
The event coincides with Williamsport's second annual Local Foods Week, Sept. 7-12. The week is devoted to celebrating the abundance and diversity of foods produced in the Greater Williamsport area, according to Amanda Burbage, regional coordinator of Pennsylvania's Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign.
"Williamsport is fortunate to have the fine talents of Penn College's culinary arts program to showcase the quality and freshness of the late-summer-season harvest," Burbage said. "We are fortunate to live in an area where we can feed ourselves for a good portion of the year on the bounty and diversity of food that exists within a 50-mile radius of where we live. We too often take our farms for granted and should recognize that what we choose to eat has a profound impact on the farmland we see all around us."
Ditchfield said giving students experience with such fresh ingredients is important in Penn College's School of Hospitality.
"I try to get as many fresh and local ingredients as I can for my menus for this class and also our Regional American Cuisine class," he said. "By shopping this way, we are getting a better product in terms of freshness, flavor and nutrient density, and these are the products I like the students working with. We are establishing relationships directly with the sources of our food. We know exactly where our food comes from. We are defining food security locally. It's good for the farmers, the consumers and the local economy."
The students will prepare food from 8 a.m. to noon and typically serve more than 2,000 plates.
The growers market is held at municipal parking lot G, bounded by Fifth, Hepburn and Pine streets and Little League Boulevard, where Williamsport Outdoor Growers Market Association vendors sell produce and other food items each Saturday, mid-June through the end of October.
"It has been rewarding being part of the market, watching and helping it grow as a market and a community event," Ditchfield said.
"When we first began to do food demonstrations at the market, there were less than 12 farmers. It was new for all of us," he said. "The market has doubled in size, and we now have grass-fed beef, pasture poultry, raw-milk cheeses and many products made by the vendors, not just vegetables."