West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the official opening of its new teaching kitchen with a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 14. Special guest, former White House Chef Sam Morgante, spoke about his work for President George W. Bush.
Completed this summer, the kitchen will accommodate growing numbers of students interested in the college’s many hospitality and culinary programs. It was made possible through federal Perkins Grant funding. A state-of-the-art “Point of Sale” system enables student chefs to take food orders electronically at their student-run restaurant which opens for specific periods during the year.
According to Associate Professor Douglas Fee, coordinator of MCCC’s hospitality programs, “The kitchen makes it possible to offer newly-developed classes in such delectable topics as ‘Chocolates and Confections,’ ‘American Regional Cuisine,’ and ‘Classical Cuisine/Advanced International.’ It also will meet the needs of students who elect the general education course ‘Food and Culture,’ which is popular with all majors.”
As a special highlight, Chef Morgante and MCCC Instructor Frank Benowitz demonstrated how to prepare one of the former president’s favorite meals, Texas flank steak with bruschetta, featuring fresh local vegetables of the season. Guests, culinary students and local chefs who teach at MCCC’s Culinary Center, sampled the dish, along with desserts prepared by pastry art students. As a gift to the college, Chef Morgante presented President Patricia Donohue with knives for the teaching kitchen, engraved with the presidential seal.
“It is truly an honor to visit Mercer,” said Chef Morgante. “Teaching is my passion, and community colleges lead the way in providing hands-on training for students. Mercer’s state of the art facilities and student-run restaurant provide real-life experiences which help eliminate the fear factor. The more exposure students have early on, the more confident they will be as they respond to the demands of this exciting industry.
Mercer’s programs prepare students for employment in various entry-level management careers in the food service and lodging industries. Associate degree programs include “Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management,” “Culinology,” and “Culinary Arts.” Shorter-term certificate programs are also offered in Catering Management, Professional Baking and Professional Cooking. Abundant transfer opportunities are in place for students who wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree after completing an associate degree at Mercer.