Students work alongside celebrity chefs at Breeders’ Cup

Pennsylvania College of Technology hospitality students worked alongside some of the nation’s top chefs as part of the culinary team preparing food for guests of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

The annual November event is the unofficial culmination of the thoroughbred horse racing season. The two-day extravaganza attracts the best horses, trainers and owners from across the globe, along with its share of celebrity fans.

This year, the event was held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Sixteen Penn College students made the trip to the Bluegrass State to spend three days in the kitchens that serve the Downs’ most high-end venues.

Pennsylvania College of Technology was part of the culinary team at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Championships at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. From left, baking and pastry arts student Amanda M. Brandt, of Etters, York County; Chef Takao Iinuma, of Genji Sushi; and Penn College’s Chef Charles R. Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts, work alongside Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto during a demonstration in “The Mansion” at Churchill Downs.

“I was given the opportunity to get a lesson from Chef Masaharu Morimoto on how to make his shrimp tempura rolls,” said Autumn L. Schabener, a first-semester baking and pastry arts student from Reading.

Morimoto owns 17 restaurants around the world, is well known for his victories on worldwide editions of “Iron Chef,” and is the recipient of a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design. He was one of eight celebrity chefs – many of them also James Beard Foundation honorees – who led kitchens for VIP Churchill Downs venues. Penn College students worked with all of them.

Schabener was one of four students who worked in “The Mansion” – Churchill Downs’ most exclusive venue – with Morimoto and his staff, as well as with Chef Angie Mar, chef/owner of New York City’s Beatrice Inn, who has been lauded by such publications as Food & Wine and The New York Times.

Six students worked in the Turf Club with Chef Hugh Acheson, a James Beard Award winner and judge on the reality series “Top Chef,” and Chef Marc Forgione, season three winner of Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef.” Abbey R. Mefferd, a culinary arts and systems student from Boyertown, was among them.

“The atmosphere was so energetic and fast-paced,” Mefferd said. “You could feel the excitement in everyone as soon as we entered the parking lot to Churchill Downs. … (It) was amazing seeing how the kitchen managed to pull together and accomplish so much, … seeing how smooth and well-organized the kitchen was during service, feeling the sense of pride we all had at the end of each day and being eager to return the next.”

In addition, students worked with celebrities Chef Amanda Freitag, a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped” series; Chef Jose Garces, a James Beard honoree and “Iron Chef”; Chef Anthony Lamas, a three-time James Beard Award finalist; and Chef Ouita Michel, a James Beard-nominated chef who is frequently featured in national media.

A fast pace, long hours and high volume are signature to events like the Breeders’ Cup.

“One of my favorite tasks was searing off 1,500 pounds of chicken breasts on the first day, and roasting almost 200 New York strip steaks on the last day,” said Aaron Timmons, a culinary arts and systems student from Greencastle, who worked in Churchill Downs’ main kitchen. “I saw how a large event center handles all the food prep for this kind of event.”

Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport, made a return trip to Churchill Downs, having joined the Churchill Downs staff – along with dozens of other Penn College students – for four Kentucky Derbys at the facility.

“I have met a lot of different chefs, but when you all come together as a team, the outcome is tremendous,” Smith said. “Learning new techniques and being taught the different roles as a young chef has definitely helped me to get where I want to be.”

It’s an experience first-time students cherished, as well.

“I was lucky enough to experience real, hands-on work at a very demanding place like Churchill Downs,” Schabener said.

Penn College offers more than 100 majors, including associate degrees in hospitality management, baking and pastry arts and culinary arts technology, and bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and systems and business administration: sport and event management. To learn more, call 570-327-4505 or visit the School of Business & Hospitality.

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

− Photos by Chef Charles R. Niedermyer; and students Abbey R. Mefferd and Aaron Timmons

 

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