Trenton, N.J. – While many students have their noses in a book or are glued to their computer as they study for final exams, Career Training Institute (CTI) culinary student Giovanni Alvarez, of Trenton, arrived at Mercer County Community College’s Center City Café at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 22 to begin preparation for a lunchtime meal that brought rave reviews – and a strong final grade from Chef/Instructor Jorge Maldonado.
Developing a menu that suggested a gourmet restaurant, Alvarez spent weeks deciding on dishes based on his personal favorites. Clearly designed to wow the judges, the meal started with butternut squash soup and crab cake with orange saffron, remoulade sauce and roasted corn salsa. Entrees included beef steak served in a fried wonton over horseradish mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus and encrusted mahi-mahi over roasted vegetables, balsamic glaze and couscous cake. A daring and completely original vegetarian dish featured sautéed kale with tomatoes, orange segments and avocado mousse. The amazing meal concluded with a flaky apple strudel drizzled with mango and raspberry sauce.
Nine judges – plus Chef Maldonado, the toughest judge of all – critiqued the meal. The group was unanimous in its appreciation of the food quality and seasoning, the beautiful presentation of each dish, the timing of the service, and Alvarez’s descriptions prior to the serving of each course.
Instructor Matt McElmoyl, owner and executive chef of Oliver’s Bistro in Bordentown, commended Alvarez. “The seasoning and heat of the dishes was perfect. You paid a lot of attention to detail and you have a great attitude. You are cut out for this. You have all the tools you need to work in this field.”
Craig Morris, Assistant Director for Community Education and Training at the Trenton Campus, noted that Alvarez’s progress, even since his mid-term meal, was impressive. “We have watched you develop your skills. Continue to sharpen the blade. You will go far in this field,” Morris said.
Alvarez took the praise in stride, but was clearly pleased. “I didn’t inquire at Mercer thinking about being a chef,” he recalled. “But I was encouraged to do what I love.” Already working at DeLorenzo’s in Robbinsville, Alvarez’s heart is clearly in the kitchen.
“It’s been amazing,” he says of his four months of intensive training. “I got a lot of guidance and support from Chef Jorge and Chef Matt. I got what I needed to grow in the field that I love.”
Alvarez was assisted in the kitchen by Luis Estrada, a recent CTI graduate who now works full-time at Salt Creek Grille in Princeton and returned to the college to help his friend prepare one of the most important meals of his life.
The Career Training Institute provides two tracks: culinary and office professional. Students pursue their area of specialty in intensive short-term training with a goal to proceed directly into the workforce. Many CTI students elect to continue at the college to earn their associate degree.
|Alvarez gets valuable feedback, while Chef Maldonado notes how proud he is of his student's accomplishments.
MCCC Career Training Institute
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