Culinary arts students to present menus from across the U.S.

Published 03.19.2024

Baking & Culinary
Business, Arts & Sciences Events

In the coming weeks, Pennsylvania College of Technology culinary arts students will practice kitchen management skills as they serve a series of dinners featuring American regional cuisine in Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

Served Wednesdays, March 20 to April 24, each week’s menu features signature cuisine from a different corner of the U.S. – from New Orleans’ Cajun and Creole flavors to New England’s famous seafood.

Each dinner is managed by either one or two students, who serve as sous chefs to course instructor Chef Amanda L. Farr-Lepper, assistant professor of culinary arts. They determine ingredient quantities and costs and assign kitchen responsibilities to classmates.

“The genuine understanding of the vast amount of work that needs to be done before you can even think about serving a written menu from a manager’s perspective is huge, as well as the skills necessary to organize and lead a successful team in the kitchen,” Farr-Lepper said.

The students also research and present aspects of their assigned regions, including history, culture, climate, common ingredients, cooking methods, famous chefs and sustainability.

“Their understanding of where these things originated and how they have changed over the years teaches them the foundation of our industry, but also inspires them to continue to be innovative and creative in their craft,” Farr-Lepper said. “Students learn about regional ingredients and why they are used, and their region’s responsiveness or proactive approach to supporting sustainable practices.”

Pennsylvania College of Technology culinary arts students will practice kitchen management skills as they serve a series of dinners featuring American Regional cuisine in the college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

The regional menus begin with a New Orleans dinner on March 20, managed by students Ryan J. Baranoski, of Mount Carmel, and RJ Cameron Jr., of Sunbury.

“Common ingredients include shrimp, crawfish, rice, sausage, Cajun spices, okra, red beans and hot sauce,” explained Baranoski, who has dreamed of opening a food truck since childhood. Cameron’s motivation for pursuing a culinary education is more universal: He’s always hungry.

On March 27, student Nick O. Truax, of Everett, will lead a Napa Valley dinner.

“Napa Valley is known for very fresh ingredients, especially fruits such as avocados, figs and pears,” Truax said. “Napa Valley is also heavily known for the use of cooking wines, such as Pinot and Merlot, in many dishes.”

After graduating, Truax hopes to pursue a business degree then work under skilled chefs to bolster his culinary knowledge before eventually launching his own restaurant.

On April 3, Zachary T. Davies, of Weatherly, and Alicia M. Kaster, of Titusville, will present dishes from the Heartland.

“The food of the Heartland of America is mostly defined by the rich farmland in the area,” Davies said. “There is a lot of beef, dairy, grains and potatoes. The favorite methods of cooking seem to be a tie between baking and frying.”

Davies has loved cooking from the moment he was old enough to help in the kitchen. “I felt it was just the thing I was meant to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

Kaster, too, grew up cooking.

“I love being able to help people, and I have been in the kitchen since I was old enough to be trusted with a knife, so I just put the two together,” she said.

Gracie L. Gignac, of Landisburg, will lead a Southern Style menu on April 10 that includes a variety of proteins, including chicken, braised short ribs and a “Mississippi pork chop.”

“There is something for everyone and lots of traditional Southern flavors,” Gignac said. Of a culinary career, she said, “For me it’s all about being creative and letting people enjoy my food. In some way, I always knew this would be my career choice.”

For me it’s all about being creative and letting people enjoy my food. In some way, I always knew this would be my career choice.

Gracie L. Gignac

Culinary arts technology student

A Southwest dinner is scheduled for April 17, managed by students Aniya S. Green, of Harrisburg, and Nicholas P. Matz, of Schuylkill Haven.

“Some common ingredients are beans, tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, jalapenos, chicken, rice and spices,” said Matz, who knew he wanted a career that would keep him on his feet. “I would like to work a variety of different types of jobs. One of the reasons I enjoy this field so much is that there are so many options you can branch out to.”

Green, initially interested in the veterinary field when beginning her studies at a career and technical school, discovered a love for cooking when she rotated through classes her freshman year and stuck with culinary for the remainder of her high school career. She hopes to become a private chef, potentially on a cruise ship.

A New England dinner is on the menu on April 24 for student managers Nathan A. Fleagle, of State College, and Lucas J. Hackney, of Bellefonte.

“New England style focuses primarily on seafood, as well as traditional English and Irish style cooking,” Fleagle said. “This involves a lot of stewing, baking, steaming and boiling.”

Set to become the third chef in his family, Fleagle hopes to gain experience in a variety of kitchens, learning new techniques along the way. Hackney, likewise, would like to work with and learn from an experienced chef. He can recall the moment he discovered his passion for culinary.

“When I was 5, my mom let me make pumpkin rolls with her during Thanksgiving,” he said. “I instantly fell in love with making food, and I started exploring how to make all different types of food. It led me to wanting to become a chef after years of cooking with my mom.”

Penn College offers degrees and certificates in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts, which can be continued to a bachelor’s degree in business. To learn more, call 570-327-4505.

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