Faculty Member Urges Balance in Pursuit of Perfection

Published 10.16.2012

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From stage level, a front row of hospitality students is an easy target of questioning.An instructor in Pennsylvania College of Technology's School of Hospitality treated members of his lecture audience to chocolate Monday, then entreated them to find harmony between passion and the quest for excellence. "Focus on the task and create the best quality product with the simplest of things," said Chef Charles R. Niedermyer II, who imparted "Chocolate Lessons for the Modern Craftsman" as the fifth annual speaker in the David London My Last Words Lecture Series. "Just remember that it's not quality at all costs."

Taking his audience through the stages of craftsmanship − from a solid foundation through stylistic enhancements to the never-ending pursuit of perfection − Chef Charles unveils increasingly more intricate showpieces.As driven as he is toward culinary creation, the 2000 baking and pastry arts graduate said, he never forgets his assortment of other hats: husband, father, son, brother, uncle ... even gardener and Thai boxer.

One of his passions was distributed to those entering the Klump Academic Center Auditorium: three squares of Guittard chocolate in varying sweetness, not to be opened until instructed. Midway through his hourlong talk, Niedermyer coached his audience in sampling and savoring each piece – artists learning all they can about their medium – but he clearly had something deeper to share.

Chef Charles shares a not-so-secret recipe for success."What was freely given to me, I shall pass on to you," he tells students. "There are no secrets in pastry, no secrets to chocolate. We have a responsibility to give back – to our co-workers, to our employees, to our friends and to our community. Even when you reach that 'expert' level, when you attain that very special skill set, don't forget to say, 'Thanks.'"

And whatever the craft, from baking to the age-old gift of parenthood, Niedermyer said artistry and technology need not conflict.

The speaker accepts a commemorative plaque from Malinda C. Love, assistant director of student activities for diversity and cultural life (and the organizer of the David London My Last Words Lecture Series)."Yes, you can find a machine to do something bigger, better, faster, but it doesn't have to diminish the quality of the work," he said. "The craftsman needs to engage the technology, engage the tools; the craftsman has to be the one to add the surprises."

Baking and pastry arts students join one of their favorite instructors on stage for a postlecture photo op.The presentation has been added to the college's YouTube channel.