Candace Gilbert did Japan and Italy. Jessica Hawkins oversaw Ireland and France. Summer Bury coordinated Brazil and Persia.
No, the Pellissippi State Community College students are not involved in a study abroad program. As students in Culinary Arts at the college, all three have been involved in a series of luncheons this spring at the University of Tennessee’s Ready for the World Café.
The luncheon series, which concludes on April 26, offers the culinary students the opportunity to serve as head kitchen managers and assistant kitchen managers for luncheons inspired by cuisines from a wide variety of traditions.
In their supervisory roles, Gilbert, Hawkins and Bury have already taken their turn at executing the dining experience, managing staff, planning menus, preparing the food, generating cost analyses, marketing, serving diners and ensuring customer satisfaction.
Bury stepped into the spotlight on April 17, when she oversaw the luncheon spotlighting Persia. The Pellissippi State student, who moved to Knoxville five years ago from Washington state, says she was excited about her luncheon duties. She had previously supervised a luncheon focusing on Brazil, so many of her preparatory activities were the same for the Persia luncheon. What was different, she explains, was the challenge of gathering ingredients.
“For my research for the Persia luncheon,” she said, “I found that we couldn’t necessarily get all of the ingredients here. We had to find substitutes. Some things are the same, though, such as presentation. The food always has to be plated nicely.” Bury recently began an internship with Kroger Marketplace.
Gilbert, originally from Knoxville, says that she has been interested in cooking since the age of 4. She cooked for her family as a teen, deciding to pursue her passion as a profession when Pellissippi State began offering Culinary Arts.
Gilbert is now working as an intern with All Occasion Catering. She hopes to one day open her own catering business, preferably one that focuses on organic food and operates as a food truck. She praises the chefs who serve as instructors.
“Tyler White and John Alunni are excellent instructors,” she said. “Chef White and Chef Alunni both push you out of your comfort zone to make you the best you can be. They have been very supportive and have offered me great direction.”
Hawkins, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 13 years, enrolled at Pellissippi State for an education in hospitality management. Culinary Arts and Hospitality are two of five concentrations offered in Business Administration. She says that Tom Gaddis, coordinator of both Culinary Arts and Hospitality, saw her potential and encouraged her to attend the Culinary Arts classes.
“I am glad he did,” said Hawkins. “I love the program and am going to miss it when I graduate. We have had many great opportunities, such as working with Chef McGrady, Princess Diana’s chef, and Chef Garrett, who has his own show on PBS.”
Hawkins says she is also grateful for the employment opportunities that she attributes to Pellissippi State:
“When I started my job at Calhoun’s on the River as a banquet chef, I surprised myself with how comfortable I was and how much I know. I owe this to the Culinary Arts concentration. In this slow economy, many people have the problem of finding a job. My problem seems to be choosing which job to accept.”
The Ready for the World Café is produced through collaboration by Pellissippi State, the UT Culinary Institute and UT’s Advanced Food Production and Service Management class. The two schools began a joint venture in 2010 that offers Pellissippi State students the opportunity to earn the Associate of Applied Science degree.
The Pellissippi State students learn culinary skills in a state-of-the-art laboratory/kitchen at the Culinary Institute, located in UT’s Visitors Center, 2712 Neyland Dr. The students also take classes at Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus, which is located two miles from the Culinary Institute.
Graduates of Pellissippi State’s two-year program are eligible to apply to the American Culinary Federation for the Certified Culinarian credential, the first step toward professional chef certification.
The April 26 luncheon features the cuisine of Germany. The event takes place noon-1 and is open to the public.
Tickets are $12, available through UT, by calling (865) 974-6645. Seating capacity is 50-60 diners.
For more information regarding Pellissippi State or the Culinary Arts concentration, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.