Culinary Giants Join Forces for 25th Anniversary Visiting Chef

Published 03.23.2017

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In early April, Pennsylvania College of Technology will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its Visiting Chef Series with the return, for the seventh time, of “Louisiana’s culinary ambassador to the world,” Chef John Folse, along with Folse’s renowned restaurant partner Chef Rick Tramonto, internationally heralded Pastry Chef Donald Wressell, and Chef Elaine Gardner, a 2011 Penn College graduate who has already made a name in Philadelphia’s food industry.

During their stay, the chefs will offer book talks for the public, share insights in classrooms and work alongside students to prepare an elegant, five-course fundraising dinner in the college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

 Chef John FolseSince its inception in 1992, the Visiting Chef Series has allowed Penn College students to learn from more than 50 expert chefs, who have traveled from as far as Calabria, Italy, and from across the U.S., from Maine to California. Among the event headliners are seven Penn College graduates. Proceeds from the dinner that culminates each installment of the Visiting Chef Series are used to fund scholarships in the college’s baking and pastry arts, culinary arts, and hospitality management majors.

Many chefs have made return visits. Folse, a former chairman of the American Culinary Federation, holds the record.

An educator himself, the restaurateur has made it a mission to take “a taste of Louisiana” worldwide. Among his international exploits, in 1989 he was the first non-Italian chef to create the Vatican State Dinner in Rome.

Since opening his cornerstone restaurant, Lafitte’s Landing, in 1978 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, Folse has expanded his work into food manufacturing, publishing and more. He hosts a public-television show and a radio cooking talk show, is the author of nine cookbooks, and is the eponym of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University, where he teaches a course.

Among a long list of accolades, he was named National Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation and was among 50 people recognized in a “Profiles of Power” feature in Nation’s Restaurant News.

Chef Rick TramontoIn 2010, he partnered with Tramonto to form Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development LLC. Their first joint venture, Restaurant R’evolution, opened in New Orleans’ French Quarter in 2012 and was named Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine. In 2014, they opened Seafood R’evolution in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

Tramonto is a James Beard Foundation “Best New Chef” winner whose work has earned the Michelin Guide’s Red “M” at two restaurants: Stapleford Park, in London, and Tru, where he was executive chef and a founding partner, in Chicago.

An accomplished author, Tramonto has written eight books – including seven cookbooks and a memoir, “Scars of a Chef.” His cookbook “Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Cookbook in the Baking and Desserts category, and “American Brasserie” was a finalist in the Julia Child Cookbook Awards.

Tramonto has been featured in high-profile newspapers and magazines and has appeared on several network television shows and “Iron Chef America.” Most recently, he was a judge on the reality program “Top Chef” and a contestant on Season 2 of “Top Chef Masters.”

Wressell, executive pastry chef for Guittard Chocolate Co., is the seven-time coach of Team USA at Le Coup du Monde de la Patisserie, known as the World Cup of Baking, in France. He led the team to its first gold medal and a subsequent bronze.

Pastry Chef Donald WressellBefore joining Guittard, he was executive pastry chef for 19 years at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where he wooed the hotel’s celebrity clientele with his sweet creations and his humor. Early in his career, Wressel worked with another Penn College Visiting Chef, the late Jean-Louis Palladin, at Watergate Pastry in Washington, D.C.

Wressell joined Guittard in 2006. There, he develops recipes using Guittard chocolate, fulfills speaking engagements, conducts demonstrations, participates in international competitions and leads his signature “Guest Chef Series” classes at Guittard Chocolate Studio in Los Angeles.

Chef Elaine GardnerGardner is chef at Dizengoff, a hummusiya (hummus stall) modeled after those found around every corner in Israel. She was called upon by her employer, James Beard Award finalist Chef Michael Solomonov, to help open the restaurant in “the art museum area” of Philadelphia after working for Solomonov at Zahav, where she held positions as line cook and executive sous chef.

In a Feb. 11, 2016, article, PhillyVoice featured Gardner among “six talented Philly sous chefs making their bosses look good.”

Chefs Folse and Tramonto will discuss their careers, the culinary industry, and their books in the college’s Madigan Library. Tramonto will discuss his memoir at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 6. Folse’s book talk is set for 10 a.m. Friday, April 7. Both are open to the public and will be held on the library’s first floor.

Tickets for the Visiting Chef Dinner are sold out.

The menu and wines for the April 7 dinner are:

Hummus tehina, pita and salatim
Corn and lump-crab bisque
Duck and andouille sausage gumbo
“Jack Henry,” Potter Valley, California, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015
“Wild Oak,” Sonoma County, California, Merlot, 2012

Trio of Tru Amuse Bouche
Asian salmon tartare spoon; burrata & caviar; green apple shooter with fennel and lavender salad
“Gloria Ferrer,” Carneros Estate Grown, California, Chardonnay, 2014

Osteria di Tramonto Halibut
Roasted halibut with escarole, white beans and Italian sausage
“Gloria Ferrer,” Carneros Estate Grown, California, Chardonnay, 2014

Steak With Friends Surf & Turf
Roasted, aged sirloin of beef with lobster double-baked potato and truffle red wine sauce
“Vineyards Found,” Napa Valley, California, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

Guittard Chocolate Extravaganza
Single-origin and makers-reserve bon bons; small bites; verrines; petite gateaux; hot griddle cakes

For further information, visit the college’s Visiting Chef Series webpage.

To learn more about hospitality majors at Penn College, call 570-327-4505.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.