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MCCC Students Cook for TV Chef Lidia Bastianich of “Lidia’s Italy”


West Windsor, NJ:  Thirteen Mercer County Community College (MCCC) culinary students took on the major role of cooking for celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich of PBS’s “Lidia’s Italy” when she visited Trenton’s War Memorial building on Sunday, November 6 for a presentation demonstrating recipes from her new book “Lidia’s Italy in America.”

After spending several weeks practicing Lidia’s recipes under the guidance of MCCC Executive Chef/Culinary Instructor Jorge Maldonado, the students prepared a full-course buffet meal for 75 VIP guests, prepped food for Lidia’s presentation, and assisted her and her sous chef, Cody Hogan, on stage.  The students also served Lidia’s prepared dishes to five food tasters selected from the audience for the honor.

Dishes included stuffed artichokes, rigatoni boscaiolo, chicken sorrentino and zuppa inglese. Mr. Hogan oversaw the food preparations during a full day on Friday, Nov. 4, with the students and their instructors at MCCC's James Kerney Campus culinary kitchen in downtown Trenton.

Students who participated are studying culinary arts in Mercer’s Career Training Institute, and in the college’s associate degree programs in Culinary Arts, Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management and Culinology.

Also assisting the students with preparations were Associate Professor Doug Fee and Chef/Instructor Frank Benowitz. 


Mercer County Community College students and staff who participated in the “Lidia’s Italy in America” event Nov. 6 at Trenton’s War Memorial, from left, are: Chef Instructor Jorge Maldonado, students Gieter Montgomery, Pam Ballard, Roosevelt Smith, and Beth Jones, Chef Instructor Frank Benowitz, TV Chef Lidia Bastianich, MCCC Provost Monica Weaver, student Jeff Johnson, MCCC President Patricia Donohue, students Takako Cusack, Angel Mitchell, and Erika Diaz, and Associate Professor Doug Fee.
Lidia introduced the students on stage. At far left are James Kerney Campus Provost Monica Weaver and Career Training Institute Chef/Instructor Jorge Maldonado. Below, Lidia talks with students while they serve guests during a VIP reception.

According to CTI student Jeff Johnson of Ewing, “It was a great experience and very exciting for me.  I am inspired because I want to become a celebrity chef one day.”  Johnson plans to continue his culinary studies in an MCCC associate degree program.

Culinary students Pamela Ballard and Beth Jones were delighted to meet the famous chef, as they had just completed a paper and slide show about her life, books and TV show.  “This is quite a thrill for us,” Ballard said.

Lidia ended her presentation with a question and answer session, and with her signature ending: “Tutti a tavola a mangiare,” meaning “Everyone to the table to eat.”

The event was part of Lidia’s tour to promote her new book, which coincides with her new TV series. A portion of all tickets sales went to Autism Speaks.  

MCCC’s Career Training Institute

MCCC's culinary Associate Degree programs


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