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Penn College Hospitality Students Share Stages With Pro-Level Peers

Students in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s hospitality-related majors recently showcased their skills on two noteworthy stages, one group working alongside industry leaders at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and the other interacting and providing demonstrations for professional-level peers at the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show.

Students in Penn College’s hospitality majors join their instructor, Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, on the Culinary Connection stage at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Over three days, 11 Penn College students did behind-the-scenes prep work and served as on-stage assistants for 19 demonstrations by noted Pennsylvania chefs.
Students in Penn College’s hospitality majors join their instructor, Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, on the Culinary Connection stage at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Over three days, 11 Penn College students did behind-the-scenes prep work and served as on-stage assistants for 19 demonstrations by noted Pennsylvania chefs.

At the Farm Show, 11 Penn College students lent a hand to the noted culinarians who demonstrated recipes on the PA Preferred Culinary Connections stage.

The students served as on-stage assistants and did considerable work behind the curtains to prepare ingredients for the demonstrations and produce samples of each recipe for Farm Show visitors. Over three days, they prepared 5,700 pieces of food for 19 demonstrations, including three by Penn College faculty members Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts, and Chef Todd M. Keeley, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts.

“Like many of our classes, it is live-event learning,” Ditchfield said. “The students get to further develop and apply their skills. What I really like is that they get to work with many chefs; these are great contacts for employment after graduation, and internships.”

Among industry leaders they worked with were Chef Lance Smith, a 2006 Penn College graduate and executive chef of The Millworks in Harrisburg; former White House chef John Moeller; Food Network personality Melissa d’Arabian; John and Sukey Jamison, owners of Jamison Farm in Latrobe; Gov. Tom Wolf and Chef Barry Crumlich, executive chef of the governor’s residence; and many other successful Pennsylvania chefs.

They also took the stage on their own for the School Cooking Challenge. During the contest, the students broke into teams and competed against one another to make tasty, creative and visually appealing dishes using Farm Show food products selected by organizers.

On the evening before the Farm Show’s opening, they assisted with a reception by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to celebrate such initiatives as PA Preferred, a public-private partnership to promote Pennsylvania’s high-quality agricultural products; Know Your Farmer; and LEAF, a project in Leadership Education and Farming for Pennsylvania youth. The students helped to prepare foods for the reception, which was attended by the governor and other VIPs, and worked with chefs and farmers at each food station.

Nearly half a million people visit the eight-day Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation.

Penn College students (from left) Erica L. Breski, of Harrisburg; Katlyn J. Hackling, of Williamsport; Keegan D. Sonney, of Erie; and Merissa N. Aucker, of Middleburg, staffed the college’s booth at the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show, where they prepared bonbons and discussed the college’s hospitality programs.
Penn College students (from left) Erica L. Breski, of Harrisburg; Katlyn J. Hackling, of Williamsport; Keegan D. Sonney, of Erie; and Merissa N. Aucker, of Middleburg, staffed the college’s booth at the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show, where they prepared bonbons and discussed the college’s hospitality programs.

At the 135th Philly Candy Show, four students helped to staff a Penn College booth on the exposition floor. With Chef Charles R. Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts, they presented various chocolate bonbons for show attendees while promoting Penn College and its hospitality majors.

The show is sponsored by the Retail Confectioners Association of Philadelphia at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. The association recently established a scholarship for students in Penn College’s baking and pastry arts major. The first scholarship from the fund is expected to be awarded in Fall 2017.

The association was founded in 1918 to share knowledge about candy making and retailing among Philadelphia-area confectioners. Today, the association has more than 300 members throughout North and South America.

“The show provided an opportunity to connect with the association and the current generation of candy makers,” Niedermyer said. “Conversation included successful business models and career options after graduation, and the variety of opportunities in the candy-making industry.”

During the show, Niedermyer presented a seminar on “Everyday Chocolate Ganache Techniques,” which featured a guided tasting and applications in candy production.

The Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show is the largest trade show dedicated to the retail confectioner and attracts exhibitors and speakers from across the country and around the world.

Students assisting at the Pennsylvania Farm Show are: Bridget M. Callahan, of Pottsville; Eliza B. Cook, of Towanda; James S. Hall Jr., of Bellefonte; Melyce E. Kenyon, of Canton; Danielle M. McGuire, of Quakertown; Brittany L. Mink, of Allentown; Alyssa J. Morales, of Williamsport; Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport; Tessa M. Stambaugh, of Hanover; Dylan H. Therrien, of Reading; and Arielle E. White, of Chambersburg.

Students who helped at the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show are Merissa N. Aucker, of Middleburg; Erica L. Breski, of Harrisburg; Katlyn J. Hackling, of Williamsport; and Keegan D. Sonney, of Erie.

Penn College offers several hospitality-related degrees, including associate degrees in baking and pastry arts, culinary arts technology, and hospitality management, as well as a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and systems and a bachelor’s degree in applied management, designed as a completion degree for those who have already earned an associate degree in any field.

To learn more about Penn College’s hospitality degrees, 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.

– Photos by Anna C. Miller, marketing and communications specialist for the School of Business & Hospitality;
Chef Charles R. Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts;
Chef Mary G. Trometter, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts;
and Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts

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