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Students complete culinary internships at lauded establishments

This summer, Pennsylvania College of Technology culinary arts students are pleasing palates with fine food during internships near and far from home.

Pennsylvania College of Technology student Evan R. Amatore (right), of Easton, completed a summer internship at the Lehigh Country Club, working under Executive Chef Randy Zerfass (left), who was credited by Club & Resort Business with making the club a dining destination.
Pennsylvania College of Technology student Evan R. Amatore (right), of Easton, completed a summer internship at the Lehigh Country Club, working under Executive Chef Randy Zerfass (left), who was credited by Club & Resort Business with making the club a dining destination.

At Lehigh Country Club in Allentown, Evan R. Amatore, of Easton, is completing an internship as a saucier (sauté cook). The private club is recognized on the Board Room magazine (in partnership with Forbes Travel Guide) Distinguished Clubs list. In addition to a golf course, racquet sports and aquatics, the club provides an elegant setting for formal and informal dining.

Amatore’s duties include cooking a la carte for members ordering from a menu in any of the club’s six dining areas, including such dishes as chicken Milanese, New York strip steak au poivre, short rib macaroni and cheese, crabcakes and “anything that comes out of the fryer.”

He occasionally helps with events, as well, including weddings and birthdays, golf tournaments, and holiday parties.

“During events, I sometimes get sent to an action station, where I may carve a roast, or grill burgers, chicken and fish in front of our members. If this happens, I am in charge of setting up the station and have to make sure I have everything to get the job done,” explained Amatore, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and systems.

Fortunately, he’s able to lean on the hands-on classes he’s taken at Penn College.

“Penn College really helped me build the skills and understanding to be able to take on some of the tasks that I am trusted with,” he said. “The college helped me get a jump-start in culinary terms and techniques and showed me how to problem-solve. The classes I have had where we served food to people at Le Jeune Chef (the hospitality program’s casual fine-dining restaurant) prepared me to be able to take on any brigade and be able to understand certain terms used, and in general just know what is expected of me.”

Penn College student Brad K. Sinsabaugh, of Picture Rocks, secured a summer internship with GW Fins, a renowned seafood restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Penn College student Brad K. Sinsabaugh, of Picture Rocks, secured a summer internship with GW Fins, a renowned seafood restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Meanwhile, Brad K. Sinsabaugh, a culinary arts technology student from Picture Rocks, chose to travel more than 1,200 miles to test his skills in the New Orleans restaurant scene.

“I kind of just moved down without a job lined up here with the idea that I would just do a bunch of stages at local restaurants and see which one would be the best fit,” Sinsabaugh said.

In the culinary world, a “stage,” pronounced “stahj,” is a brief, unpaid tryout in a restaurant’s kitchen. A person who completes a stage is a stagiaire.

After staging at three restaurants, Sinsabaugh heard from his neighbors about GW Fins and reached out. The restaurant, among other accolades, made the top 10 on Trip Advisor’s 2021 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best list for fine dining restaurants in the United States.

“I immediately was interested because when I came in, they were processing a whole yellowfin tuna and showed me a technique where they dry age fish, which isn’t a thing I’d ever heard about,” Sinsabaugh said. “Apparently they’re one of the only restaurants to do it. By the end of the first day, I got to try some amazing food and multiple techniques I had never heard of, and I could just feel that this was the right place to be.” Now a paid intern, Sinsabaugh is assigned to the appetizer station at GW Fins, whose co-owner, Chef Tenney Flynn, is known as an authority on Gulf of Mexico seafood. Flynn was referred to by The Wall Street Journal as “the fishmonger czar of the South.”

At the appetizer station, Sinsabaugh focuses on fried foods and some sautéed-to-order dishes. After training, he, like Amatore, began managing the station by himself.

“It ended up being much more difficult than I thought it was going to be,” Sinsabaugh said, explaining that the restaurant serves 300 to 500 customers an evening. “The volume of orders really got to me at first, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, but I had a lot of support from the great staff there and managed to make it through.

“What I learned was that to manage a station where you can get flooded with like 10 tickets at a time is that it’s a mental battle rather than one of just doing things quickly. You have to be able to stay calm and focused or you will get very overwhelmed and delayed in putting food out, and if my apps go out late, then the rest of the meal for the table has to get put on hold.”

Sinsabaugh has been intrigued by the restaurant’s dry pickling technique, which preserves vegetables’ freshness and texture, and the wide variety of fish the restaurant serves.

“It’s a cool thing to open the fish cooler and be surrounded by whole fish, some of which are almost as big as me,” Sinsabaugh said, explaining that GW Fins exclusively buys whole fish. “On average we get 46% more yield out of these fish because of the way Chef Mike (Executive Chef Michael Nelson) has figured out how to use each piece of the fish, even down to the fins.

Sinsabaugh provided this photo of a whole red snapper that he prepared.
Sinsabaugh provided this photo of a whole red snapper that he prepared.

“One of my favorite things to do here is to fry a whole lionfish, despite it being a bit sketchy because they are covered in spikes with poison, but the end product is a massive fish that looks so nice sitting upright on the plate,” he added.

If he sticks with it, he will work his way up to the main line, where entrees are prepared.“Both students are very talented young chefs, and the internships that they were able to gain will translate into real world experiences,” said Chef Frank M. Suchwala, associate professor of hospitality management and culinary arts. “Their weekly logs tell stories of being put to the test daily with the chance to elevate their skill to the highest levels.”

“Since starting here, it feels like I’m learning something new every day,” Sinsabaugh said. “This restaurant has many unique offerings and challenges, which was exactly what I was looking for.”

“I have learned a great amount since I started here, like making certain sauces and learning new culinary terms and techniques. Working here has also helped me build more confidence with myself and my cooking,” Amatore said of his Lehigh Country Club experience. “The fine staff that works here cares about the quality of our members’ every bite. My executive chef, Chef Randy Zerfass, is all about consistency and really pushes me to become the best chef I can be.”

Which is just right for the young culinarian, who has wanted to be a chef since elementary school. The Lehigh Country Club experience has bolstered that dream.

“Something about being able to create food that people enjoy just puts a smile on my face and makes me feel good,” he said, sharing the story of a woman who asked him who had made a gnocchi dish for her about a week before.

“Knowing I was working that day, and I am the one who makes the dish, I told her it was me. She proceeded with great energy and told me that it was the best she had ever had, and it tasted just like her grandmother used to make. Being able to bring that feeling to another human being and seeing that as a result of what I work so hard for just brings a tear to my eye, solidifying that I made the right choice in my journey of becoming a chef.”

“The great thing about internships in the culinary arts program is that they allow the students to see how much they have learned and must learn,” Suchwala explained. “It is a gateway into the industry that fosters a confidence that they can conquer what they set out for. The world is a better place with our students in it. Both students will go far.”

Penn College offers 16-month associate degrees and 12-month certificates in both baking and pastry arts and culinary arts, which can be continued toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration or applied management. To learn more, call 570-327-4505 or visit the School of Business, Arts & Sciences.

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

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