By DUSTEN RADER
Special to the OBSERVER
ASHVILLE - More than 850 culinary arts students in New York had a lesson in spicing it up thanks to Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.
Pictured are Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES culinary arts students during 'Spicing it Up With the CIA,' a program that featured two hour-long sessions with certified Master Chef and former Culinary Institute of America culinary dean, Fritz Sonnenschmidt and internationally renowned pastry chef, Jean Paul Prosperi.
Two chefs from the Culinary Institute of America recently met with E2CCB culinary arts students during an interactive distance learning opportunity.
The program, entitled "Spicing it Up With the CIA," held at E2CCB Hewes Educational Center in Ashville, featured Certified Master Chef and former Culinary Institute of America culinary dean Fritz Sonnenschmidt and internationally renowned pastry chef Jean Paul Prosperi. In addition to the live sessions, the event was broadcast, for the first time in its history, to 25 locations across New York state to impact more than 850 students.
Larry Lopez, director of the National Student Organization and international programs for CIA, was present at the event to open the live sessions with an introductory speech.
"The entire CIA team comes alive when we see the interest of the younger generation and their focus for the future," said Lopez. "That is rewarding and very reassuring that there is a future. If we can help them find that path, and be successful by becoming chefs, owners of restaurants, food writers, researchers, managers or whatever it might be, these are the future leaders of the food service and hospitality industry. That's what we are looking for - young people who can become successful, become leaders and then give back to society."
According to Russell Furdell, E2CCB culinary arts instructor, the program is a great opportunity because the students get to work with some of the best chefs on the planet.
"Fritz Sonnenschmidt and Jean Paul Prosperi are both incredible educators, and they are what the industry is all about," said Furdell. "We are very privileged to have them come. I love it, and I learn something every year."
The program included demonstrations by Sonnenschmidt and Prosperi. While preparing their dishes Sonnenschmidt and Prosperi lectured on a wide variety of culinary topics, answered questions and interacted with the students.
"The reason why it's important to work with young, aspiring chefs is because today is fast," said Sonnenschmidt. "So, these students are under much more pressure in order to understand that cooking is a science and an art. It's a way of understanding the material from the ground, onto the table, into the pot and onto the plate."
The first session, hosted by Sonnenschmidt, featured a recipe called "Serbian Reis Fleish." The dish has origins in Serbia and Hungary, and has become an essential component of Viennese cuisine. Today, there are versions of the dish all over the world. In India the dish is enriched with curry and is known as "pemmican." In Indonesia it is known as "fried rice," and in Spain it is "Paella." Sonnenschmidt's version of the recipe featured a Madras curry-flavored tomato sauce, braised pork butt with garlic, smoked sweet paprika, coriander, nutmeg, saffron, balsamic vinegar and marjoram. The dish was topped with shredded iceberg lettuce with a sour cream marinade.
"Cooking is all about simplicity," said Sonnenschmidt. "I believe in simple comfort food. Once you have to stop and think about what you're eating, then you have no more appetite, and it doesn't taste good. The average person wants to go to a restaurant, say, 'That looks good,' enjoy it, then go home and talk about it. They don't want to sit there and ask themselves 'Do I like it?' By that time they've made up their mind that it's no good."
The second session was hosted by Prosperi. He demonstrated how to create flavored Diplomat pastry cream. He prepared three versions using a base of milk, eggs, cinnamon, sugar, butter, cornstarch and gelatin. He then added mint, vanilla and ginger to create three unique flavored pastry creams. He served samples of the pastry cream to students with fresh blueberries.
According to Sue Benson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at E2CCB, the program, which has been running for several years, always makes a huge impact on the students.
"The impact that the chefs have on students is not just for cooking, but also for the history they give while cooking," said Benson. "To have the students interact with the chefs gives them more of a foothold on the career that they are interested in. So, it's a wonderful experience every year, and our students are always thrilled with the chefs. They emulate them, and want to be like the chefs that they see here. They also understand that in order to accomplish that, they need to have passion and continue learning."
For more information about the E2CCB culinary arts program contact Furdell at 763-1801 ext. 3107 or visit e2ccb.org.