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Chef Todd Downs to Prepare Visiting Chef Dinner Oct. 12

Todd Downs, award-winning executive chef at the Park Avenue Cafe in Chicago, will prepare the Distinguished Visiting Chef Series Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 12, at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The sumptuous meal, with a main course of Jamison Farm Lamb, will be offered at Le Jeune Chef, the fine-dining restaurant on Penn College’s main campus that serves as a practical-laboratory experience for students in the School of Hospitality.

Some seats are available and may be reserved by calling the Special Events Office at Penn College at (570) 320-5229.

Downs began cooking at the age of 15 and received his associate’s degree in restaurant business from Purdue University. He is an American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef and has served as corporate chef for CASA Restaurants and executive chef at the Orchard Ridge Country Club and the Park Place Grill in Fort Wayne, Ind. Most recently, Downs was executive chef at the Sandcreek Country Club in Chesterton, Ind.

Downs has won numerous culinary awards, including a Gold Medal in the 2000 International Culinary Olympics (Hot Food Shown Cold), and the 1999 “Nation’s Restaurant News” magazine’s Meat Dish of the Year (Vineyard style pork shoulder). He was named a national finalist three consecutive years in the National Pork Producers Council “Taste of Elegance” competition.

Downs joined David Burke’s Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group last year, earning high praise from guests. His creations are rooted in modern American cuisine, but he has the unique ability to contemporize traditional comfort foods by incorporating Asian and Californian influences. In addition to his duties at Park Avenue Cafe, Downs oversees Mrs. Park’s Tavern and all catering for the DoubleTree Guest Suites, with which both restaurants are affiliated.

The seasonal menu offers a range of flavors and specialties, including his Braised Pork Shank with Chanterelle Risotto and Viognier Mustard Sauce, which was awarded “National Meat Dish of the Year” by “Nation’s Restaurant News.”

“I enjoy surprising guests with modern renditions of classic dishes, putting a new spin on familiar ingredients, and creating a recognizable menu that emphasizes flavor,” Downs said. “I also find it greatly enhances the dining experience if I can somehow interact with guests on a personal level to see how we have done. It shows we care.”

Since 1992, the Visiting Chef Series has been attracting world-renowned chefs to the kitchens of Penn College and Le Jeune Chef. It’s an opportunity for students, faculty and restaurant staff to experience the best the culinary world has to offer.

The culmination of the chef’s visit is a gala fund-raising dinner prepared by the visiting chef, students and faculty. Proceeds from the Visiting Chef Series activities, including the fund-raising dinner and cooking demonstrations offered to the public, benefit the scholarship fund for students in the Hospitality Management, Culinary Arts Technology, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Dietary Manager Technology majors.

The menu for the Visiting Chef Dinner (with the accompanying wine for each course) follows:

Sweet Corn Broth with Truffle Flan and “Memo Chives” Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2001, Napa Valley, California

Maine Diver Scallop Tian with Beluga Lentils, Turnips and Golden Beet Oil Sonnhof Gruener Veltliner “Gruvee” 2001, Kamptal, Austria

Lee’s Heirloom Greens with Smoked Cranberry Vinaigrette, Seared Duck Foie Gras, Roasted Red Pears and Brioche Dr. Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2001, New York Finger Lakes

Jamison Farm Lamb-Two Ways: Grilled Loin Chop and Crispy Shoulder Confit, Porcini Risotto-Filled Amish Tomato, Mission Fig and Armagnac Jus Standing Stone Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2001, New York Finger Lakes

Artisinal American Cheeses at Contrasting Room Temperatures, Hudson Valley Sheep’s Milk, Camembert with Hazelnut Crust and Vanilla Poached Apricots; Dry-Aged Sonoma Jack and Apple Bacon Beignet, Port Wine, Dried Cherry and Cinnamon Compote; Grafton Village Vermont White Cheddar and Apple “Ice Cream Sandwich” Bannister Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir 1998, Alexander Valley, California

Spiced Poached Pear in Phyllo Jacket with Mascarpone Stuffing, Pistachio Chiboust with Port Glaze Selected Old Port

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