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Culinary capstones give Penn College students leadership opportunities

The first cohort of culinary arts students completing a three-semester associate degree at Pennsylvania College of Technology recently put their skills to the test as each developed a full dinner menu – and served as chef de cuisine – in the college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

“I wanted the focus of this class to be preparing for what they’re going to do when they leave here, as opposed to what they’ve already done here,” said Chef Christopher R. Grove, executive chef of Le Jeune Chef and instructor of the Culinary Capstone course.

The students’ duties included developing a themed five-course menu, including determining cost, completing order sheets, making kitchen assignments to other students (and the class instructor), ensuring product quality on the night of service, and solving problems along the way.

“The whole idea of this class is that they get a sneak peek of what it’s going to be like in industry,” explained Grove, shortly after having the night’s student-in-charge taste and approve the dish he was making. “They are answering questions and putting out fires.”

Alexis J. Muthler-Harris, of Williamsport, chose a Southern-themed menu that included deep-fried Cajun deviled eggs.

“I was making a bold move with that,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was going to turn out, but they were good! They were better than regular deviled eggs.”

Palin J. Hurst, of Gardners, chose a gastro-pub theme.

One of his favorite menu items was a “bacon bomb burger” on a brioche bun with homemade bacon jam, pickled red onions and Gouda cheese. The class ground its own meat for the burger, incorporating lamb, and made the bacon jam.

Charlie M. Suchanec, of State College, presented a Slovakian menu reminiscent of the Christmas Eve dinner his family shares each year.

“It’s a lot more open,” he said of the capstone course. “It gives you freedom. In other classes, they give you the menu and tell you what to make, but this gives you the freedom to do what you want to do.”

“We tried to incorporate all areas of the program and included them into a course that would showcase every aspect of what makes a chef into a great chef,” said Chef Frank M. Suchwala, associate professor of hospitality management/culinary arts, who collaborated with Chef Todd M. Keeley, assistant professor of baking and pastry/culinary arts, to write the course abstract.

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