Penn College chefs and students put on culinary show

HARRISBURG – Students and instructors from the Pennsylvania College of Technology School of Hospitality took to the PA Preferred Culinary Connection stage the first three days of this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show to exhibit techniques for making classy cuisine.

“It’s been 15 or 16 years I’ve come down here,” said Chef Paul Mach, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality. “I’m always amazed that not only people from all around the state but people from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, from all over are here for this event – it’s a real slice of the history of Pennsylvania.”

In their three days staffing the stage’s kitchen, Penn College culinary students made the food for 18 demonstrations.

“We’re responsible for 200 two-ounce tasting portions for each show,” said Chef Michael Ditchfield, of Penn College. “I get the chefs’ contact information and order all the food beforehand we’ve been doing it long enough that it’s usually just three phone calls, and the food will all be here.”

School of Hospitality students began prep work Friday for their three days of cooking.

“(Students) don’t go back to school until the 14th,” Mach said. “These students have volunteered part of their break to come do this show with us.”

Each day dishes made for the stage have a specific ingredient or theme. Saturday was Mushroom Day.

Ditchfield made a mushroom duxelle for pasta pinwheels; Mach presented seared scallops with wheat pilaf and greens; Chef Jason Viscount, of BRICCO Restaurant in Harrisburg, made a mushroom and ricotta gnochi with veal bacon gratin; and Robert Dacko, of Home 231 in Harrisburg, demonstrated beef short ribs with mushrooms, onions and goat cheese polenta.

Students worked with Dave Lieberman, host of Food Network’s “Good Deal with Dave Lieberman,” who showed the audience his baked kale ragout and broiled Pacific cod.

It was Penn College senior Kristina Wisneski’s second year working the Farm Show culinary stage.

“I work at La Jeune (Chef) in the front and back of house,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it gets stressful – fun is stressful in this industry we get to work with different chefs I usually wouldn’t get to work with.”