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‘You’re the Chef’ Interns Earn As They Learn TV Production

By Mindy Johnston College Information & Community Relations Intern

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s “You’re the Chef,” a cooking series airing nationally on public television, gives students an opportunity to earn money, receive internship credits and gain valuable real-world experience in the broadcast and culinary career fields.

Errol L. Bell of Milton, Mark A. Blanchard of Watsontown, Elizabeth M. Brown of Sayre and Rachel S. Hall of Altoona worked as Penn College interns on the “You’re the Chef” set this summer, assisting co-hosts Tom Speicher and Chef Paul Mach as 14 new episodes were taped for the award-winning series. This teamwork-oriented group of students had nothing but good things to say about their experience.

Hall is pursuing an associate’s degree in Dietary Manager Technology and a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts Technology. Brown and Bell are seeking to earn bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, respectively, in Culinary Arts Technology. Blanchard is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Communications Management.

Hall and Brown were program assistants. Their main responsibilities included organizing the set prior to each episode and helping with food production.

Bell, in his second year with the series, served as production coordinator. In addition to assisting Hall and Brown, Bell purchased food products for the show and took a lead role in cooking behind the scenes.

All three School of Hospitality students also got in front of the camera to introduce each “You’re the Chef” episode and to host 45-second “Cooking Key” segments, which provide tips for the home chef.

Blanchard handled digital photography for “You’re the Chef,” amassing approximately 400 images. He compiled one to three pages of food facts per episode and researched possible new international markets for “You’re the Chef.” He also developed a promotional display for the series, which will be placed at the entrance of Wegmans in Williamsport, and devised concepts for the show’s media kit and print ad.

All of the students said the internship has benefited them academically. Bell, Brown and Hall believe the experience helped them become better organized and focused in the kitchen and enhanced their culinary skills.

Bell added that the internship taught him the management aspect of the culinary profession. Blanchard said he will have an advantage in his major’s Digital Imaging class because of his “You’re the Chef” experience, and he values what he’s learned about production.

All four interns expressed pride in taking part in a series that can be viewed in many large cities across the nation, as well as internationally. Hall said the experience was something that few students get the opportunity to enjoy. Brown noted that most chefs who appear on cooking shows have many assistants working behind the scenes, while “You’re the Chef” operates with only the two hosts and the interns.

All of the interns say they would participate again if asked, and they suggest other students should take advantage of the unique opportunity.

Upon graduation next year, Bell is planning to travel to Japan to explore new cuisine and make a name for himself as a chef.

Hall would like to work as dietitian for a managed-care facility and eventually start her own catering business.

Brown wants to travel to Germany to learn from international chefs. After that, she’d like to live in her hometown and eventually open her own catering business and restaurant.

Blanchard has no immediate career plans, but is not opposed to relocating to find a job in his career field. He says he also would like to work for the College some day.

Speicher, who also serves as the broadcast media specialist for the College, praised the student interns for the work they performed on the set and off.

“There wouldn’t be a ‘You’re the Chef’ series without the vital contribution of several Penn College students,” he said. “We were very fortunate during this year’s production to have four students who did outstanding work both in front of and behind the camera. Their hands-on involvement with the series exemplifies what Penn College is all about. Many national public television cooking series would regard significant student involvement as a liability. At Penn College and ‘You’re the Chef,’ we view it as a tremendous asset.”

Mach, who is an assistant professor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts in the College’s School of Hospitality, said all of the interns approached their duties and responsibilities with a positive attitude that was infectious, creating an atmosphere of fun on the set that made the work more enjoyable for the hosts.

“I felt they had as positive an attitude as any of the students I’ve worked with in the eight years on the show,” he said. “It becomes easier for us to have fun when we trust the people we’re working with. That certainly was the case this summer.”

“You’re the Chef” began in 1996 on local cable access in Williamsport. Two years later, Penn College collaborated with WVIA-TV, the PBS-member station in northeastern Pennsylvania, to mold the show into a public television series. Over the past two years, the show has aired in nearly half the country, including all five of the nation?s top markets. It also airs in Japan, via an educational satellite station.

“You’re the Chef’s” new season will begin in October on WVIA-TV and on public television stations nationwide.

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