West Windsor, N.J. – A symphony of aromas sweet and savory scented the student center on Wednesday, Nov. 6, when Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (HRIM) program hosted its Sixth Annual Culinary Benefit for Student Scholarships.
A sellout crowd filled the Cafeteria on the West Windsor campus and enjoyed the culinary constructions of MCCC students and local restaurants. In addition to sampling dishes ranging from “Olyve Oyl” fried chicken sliders, to scallion waffles with mushroom ragu, guests could bid on tricky tray items from area establishments, including stays at the Princeton Westin and Townplace Suites, gift certificates to local eateries, and a knife set from Ergo Chef Knives, among other items.
The evening’s affair went to support the Chef Anne Lumberger and Chef Shari Widmayer Pastry Arts Memorial Scholarship. Established in 2014 by MCCC faculty members Frank Benowitz and Doug Fee, this year's fundraiser generated over $6,000 for students.
Benowitz noted that the event has gained great traction in its six iterations. Tickets sold out weeks before the event was set to begin, as the event has become a staple in the local community.
This year, three pastry arts students earned scholarships for their creations. Julie Maroney (Hamilton) earned the top, $1,000 scholarship for her seasonally inspired “Autumn Tart”, while Katherine Marroquin (Hamilton) and Jessica Clark took home $500 awards for their “Flan de Guyoc” and “Apple Butter Cake with Salted Caramel Ice Cream.”
Other MCCC student-created dishes included: Baking I’s Madeleines; Baking II’s rainbow cookies; the Hospitality Club’s bananas foster; and Hospitality 102’s “Olive Oyl” fried chicken sliders and butternut squash apple soup (the Hospitality’s class' offering is part of “Collage,” a menu for designed for the fall semester’s Food Preparation course’s student restaurant). The Academy of Culinary Arts from the Mercer County Technical School also attended, with students preparing a scallion waffle with mushroom ragu, speck and parmesan cream.
"Each year, our students prepare Madeleines in memory of Chef Anne," Benowitz said. "We used to call them Madeleines in honor of my daughter - Chef Anne even made these on an episode of Dish it Out. My daughter Maddie and I have fond memories of Chef Anne making her 'Madelaines'." Benowitz added that Baking II's rainbow Cookies are prepared in remembrance of Chef Shari.
"Not coincidentally, Chef Shari would make these rainbow cookies for my daughter Maddie as well since she knew how much she loved these cookies," Benowitz said. "We all have very fond memories of Chef Shari."
Community restaurants in attendance included: 1911 Smokehouse BBQ (Smoked Beef Brisket, Baked Beans and Collard Greens; Trenton) Small World Coffee (Morning Glory Blend; Princeton); Blue Bottle Café (Braised Duck and Sweet Potato Tart with Herb Goat Cheese, Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette; Hopewell); Princeton Wegmans (Deluxe Sushi Roll Assortment); Jersey Girl Cafe (Amazing Taco Tots; Hamilton); Terra Momo Bread Company (Assortment of Fresh Breads; Princeton); The Yankee Doodle Tap Room and the Naussau Inn (Mexican Street Corn Salad and Pumpkin Cheese Bites; Princeton); Blend/Brother’s Pizza (Wood-burning oven pizzas; Hamilton); Palace of Asia (Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati Rice and Naan; Lawrenceville); Rovello By Tuscano (Robbinsville). PortaVia Procaccini (Mama's Meatballs; Princeton); Sodexo at Bloomberg (Carnita Tartlete; Ewing); and Stone Terrace (Lobster Mac n' Cheese and Boxer Salads; Hamilton)
This semester, diners interested in tasting MCCC fare have also enjoyed eating at a pair of student-run restaurants: “Collage” and “American Regional.”
“Chef Doug Fee and I attended a conference at Rutgers University that highlighted the incorporation of plant-based items in menus,” said Benowitz. “That’s a trend we don’t see changing. “Collage” featured a menu that included the butternut squash apple soup, as well as an eggplant Bolognese.