Culinary Arts Student Earns Penn State Achieving Women Award

Published 04.15.2011

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Penny K. Shade, of Schuylkill Haven, works in a School of Hospitality kitchen at Pennsylvania College of Technology.A Pennsylvania College of Technology student was awarded The Pennsylvania State University's 2011 Achieving Women Award for her work at Penn State Schuylkill.

Penny K. Shade, of Schuylkill Haven, works in Penn State Schuylkill's Hidden Stream and oversees the campus's catering service. She also is pursuing a bachelor's degree in culinary arts and systems from Penn College. She earned an associate degree in culinary arts technology from the college in 2000.

The Achieving Women Award is presented by the University's Commission for Women. The universitywide recognition highlights the hard work of a technical service employee.

Her nominator, Penn State Hazleton and Schuylkill Housing and Food Services Director Jonathan Kutka, said Shade goes above and beyond to provide students and the community on the Schuylkill campus with incredible service.

To Shade, her career is hardly work.

"Food and cooking is my oxygen. If I couldn't cook, I would wither and die," she laughed.

When she is not working or taking classes at Penn College, she is teaching part time at Northumberland County Area Vocational Technical School, hosting Schuylkill students at her home for a home-cooked meal and board games, or studying a new cooking method and hosting parties for her friends to try the new food. Two years ago, she decided to learn classic Italian cooking and hosted parties for her friends to eat the Old-World Italian dishes she had learned to make.

Now, her interest is in charcuterie, which will be the focus of her senior project, to be presented later this month. As part of her studies into the culinary specialty, she has developed a line of sausages including a vegan variety that she hopes to market.

She also finds time to volunteer to teach sessions on healthy eating options and operates her own catering business, which she opened in 2001. (She's booked for Valentine's Day for the next four years.)

Shade feels fortunate to have found her calling quite by chance at the age of 19 when she was sitting in a local restaurant. Short-handed for the weekend, the manager asked Shade if she thought she could help cook breakfast. With the mere experience of cooking eggs at home, she agreed, and by the end of her shift, she was hooked.

She has been cooking ever since, and her passion has only grown. She did not pursue a degree until she was 37, but she credits Penn College with her success, including a team gold medal at an American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition at the University of Massachusetts' Chef Culinary Conference in 2004.

"I was good, but they polished me and gave me the tools to work with," Shade said.

She returned for her bachelor's degree to widen her career options, and said she is still excited for each class to begin.

"It's like being a little kid, and you get to play in their kitchen," she said.

Shade was honored at a ceremony on April 15 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

To learn more about the academic programs offered by the School of Hospitality at Penn College, call 570-327-4505 or visit online .

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