MCCC Culinary Center Serves Up Five-Star Feast
"Dinner Party" Class Set for May 12


Imagine a restaurant ready to serve you and 25 of your closest friends. Imagine that you can plan the menu, learn a bit about each course as it is served, and then enjoy a glorious six-course meal. No, you are not a judge on Bravo's hit television series, "Top Chef." You are, in fact, enjoying an evening in the Culinary Center at Mercer County Community College.

That was the experience for Julio Menendez of Hamilton, his wife Pam, and a group of their luckiest friends. In 2006, at the MCCC Scholarship Gala's silent auction, Menendez had bid on the "MCCC Restaurant Fantasy Dinner." He recently cashed in on his prize in honor of his wife's birthday. According to MCCC Hospitality Program Coordinator Chef Doug Fee, he and Mrs. Menendez sat down together to develop a detailed menu that reflected her culinary preferences.

"Diners received an education with each course that was served," Fee said. "We discussed elements such as preparation methods, sauces, and flavor combinations." The meal began with a crudite platter, followed by a salad of assorted greens with tomatoes, goat cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts. A fish course featured pan-seared sea bass, fennel and olives and was followed by Proscuitto Chicken with asparagus. The main course included roasted tenderloin and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. The splendid feast concluded with homemade assorted pastries.

According to Julio Menendez, the evening was truly an affair to remember. "We had a great time. Everything was executed very professionally. It went well beyond our expectations. I want to express my gratitude to Doug and his staff for a job well done."

In addition to 12 student volunteers from the MCCC Hospitality program, Mercer's all-star staff included Chef Claire Berg, a certified chef, registered dietician and MCCC adjunct faculty member; Chef Bill Conrad, an alumnus of the Philadelphia Restaurant School and former head of restaurant operations for Macy's; and Chef Jeff Cousminer, a certified research chef with Fimenich and former executive chef at The Frog and the Peach Restaurant. Bread, rolls and dessert were prepared by two MCCC alumni and adjunct instructors, Chef Anne Lumberger, a graduate of the New York Institute of Culinary Arts, and Rita Bohlumbohn, a pastry chef at the Hyatt Regency Princeton.

"This was a terrific experience for our students," Fee said. "They were working alongside a tremendous amount of talent in the kitchen. They got an understanding of how to execute an event like this at the highest of standards."

For community members interested in having a party of their own, Chef Fee will teach "Dinner Party," a one-session class offered through Mercer's noncredit division, on Saturday, May 12 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Designed for singles, couples and small groups, participants will serve as both chef and guest when they learn hands-on techniques in the kitchen and then sit down to a three-course meal they have helped to prepare. The cost for the class is $56 per person. To learn more or to register, call (609) 570-3311 or email

To view more noncredit courses at Mercer, click here.

Chefs "plate up" the sea bass course.
Guests enjoy their meal.
An assortment of pastries completed the meal.
"The icing on the cake."

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