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MCCC Culinary Students/Faculty Cook with Celebrity Chefs


West Windsor, N.J. --Culinary students at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) are up to all challenges when it comes to testing their myriad kitchen skills. During the spring, several ventured from their campus test kitchens to work for Master Chef Emeril Lagasse and Food Network’s Iron Chef Cat Cora.

On June 15, students Minerva DeCarlo and Anthony Lopez accompanied MCCC culinary instructor Frank Benowitz to New York City to prep food for Chef Lagasse’s pilot cooking game show for possible airing on CBS. Catching a 5:12 a.m. train, they arrived at Chelsea Television Studios (where the Martha Stewart show is filmed), and spent the entire day chopping herbs, preparing and piping cream puffs and doing a bit of food styling which required dipping cream puffs in chocolate and caramel and piling them in a cake-like formation known as Crockenbouche.

On the local scene, MCCC students prepared one of Chef Cat Cora’s recipes during her appearance and book signing at Hamilton Manor on June 2. More than 200 people in attendance had an opportunity to sample marinated grilled flank steak with pineapple salsa served in a tortilla. Proceeds went to the Friends’ Health Connection, a non-profit health and wellness organization, and MCCC’s Hospitality Club.

Cora allowed students to videotape the event to show in class, and also enabled the taping of two PSAs for use on the college’s website, and for the TV student-produced MCTV show, “Dish It Out.”

All tasks required speed, and the ability to listen, understand, and multi-task. Mercer’s student-chefs received a signed copy of Chef Cora’s latest book, Cat Cora’s Classics With A Twist. “These were wonderful experiences for our students,” said Benowitz, who has previously brought other celebrity chefs to the region, including former White House Chef Walter Scheib, and Food Network’s Robert Irvine and Ellie Krieger.

“All were extremely kind and have a great sense of humor,” Benowitz said. “Their appearances have certainly made a positive impact on our programs. We have so much to offer. I believe we are the best choice for those thinking about launching a successful career in the hospitality/culinary world.”

MCCC offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts, Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management, Chef Apprenticeship, Pastry Chef Apprenticeship, and Culinology, which prepares students for transfer to Rutgers’ Food Science program. Shorter term certificate programs include Catering Management, Professional Baking and Professional Cooking. More information is available here.

Doug Fee, coordinator of MCCC's Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program, with Iron Chef Cat Cora and Instructor Frank Benowitz.
MCCC faculty and students with Cat Cora.
Instructor Frank Benowitz with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

Culinary Programs at MCCC

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