Students Cater to Thousands at New York Event

Published 10.23.2008

Student News
Baking & Culinary
Business & Hospitality

Pennsylvania College of Technology students Aaron D. Hileman, of Altoona%3B Matthew S. Dansky, of State College%3B Meagan S. Morris, of Herndon, Va.%3B and Stephanie M. Davis, of Ford City, staff the grill at the Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, N.Y.%0A%0AStudents from Pennsylvania College of Technology provided on-site catering in the Finger Lakes region of New York recently during the 19th Annual Gourmet Harvest Festival at Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, N.Y.

Students in a Catering course taught by Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts, prepared all the food sold to visitors in the two-day festival, held Oct. 4-5, while Chef Paul Mach and Chef Mary G. Trometter, both assistant professors of hospitality management/culinary arts, provided cooking demonstrations.

"The students always rise to the occasion," Ditchfield said. "The guests enjoy asking them where they are from, asking about the food, asking about what goes well with certain Hunt Country wines."

Three students Elisabeth J. Callahan, of McSherrystown; Meagan S. Morris, of Herndon, Va.; and Benjamin B. Smith, of Allentown worked as event managers for the catering class. Among their duties were pre-costing the menu, placing purchase orders and developing production schedules.

"Essentially, they do everything an event planner would do, or at least become knowledgeable of all the many components involved in planning and managing a function," Ditchfield said. "There is a lot to this event. It requires a lot of work from all involved. There is a lot of problem-solving and critical thinking. I would say it is live-event learning at its best. After they do this event, the students all feel as though they can do great things when they graduate."

Mach said with good weather, a record number of guests attended the festival.

"As a result, the learning experience for the students was amplified, and they were able to maintain positive hospitality-service attitudes in the midst of tremendous demand for the wonderful food they produced," he said. "Making it look easy when it really isn't is one of the skills you only develop when faced with that type of scenario; it becomes a real-life learning opportunity."

Other students involved in the project were Matthew S. Dansky, of State College; Stephanie M. Davis, of Ford City; Aaron D. Hileman, of Altoona; Leanda J. Hill, of Allenwood; Derek J. Long, of Mifflinburg; Daniel R. Moyer, of Winfield; Marco G. Romano, of Danville; Tyler S. Shoup, of Montoursville; and Michael R. Yaw, of Trout Run.

Planning for this year's event began as the chefs were departing from the 2007 festival, and planning has already begun for 2009. "We already have plans for the Hunts to plant whatever produce we are going to use on our menu in their organic garden," Ditchfield said.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Hospitality at Penn College, visit online or call (570) 327-4505. To learn more about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.