When Governor-elect Ed Rendell decided to showcase restaurants from five regions of Pennsylvania, the call went out for representatives from those areas. Stepping up for Erie and Northwest Pennsylvania was the Mercyhurst College Culinary Arts Institute, and on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Chef Brian Stahlsmith, Chef Charles Magalhaes, and Valerie Kennedy, all culinary arts instructors at Mercyhurst North East, and three culinary students will travel to Harrisburg to participate in “Taste of the State,” the fine dining offering at the inauguration.
Brenda Moore, who heads the North East culinary program, said she expects the group will serve walleye and cherries jubilee, both with strong ties to the Erie region, at the event. The fine dining portion of the celebration will be held from 8:30 to 11 p.m. in conjunction with the ball that is the traditional highlight of the governor’s inauguration.
According to Moore, this is the first time culinary arts students have been involved in an inauguration. However, several years ago, when President Bill Clinton chose the Chautauqua Institution in nearby Chautauqua, N.Y., as the site where he prepared for the 1996 presidential debate, some of his meals were prepared by a student from Mercyhurst's Culinary and Wine Institute and subsequently served by four Mercyhurst Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIIM) students.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for our institute, not to mention an honor for our students and chefs, to participate in such an event as this,” said Moore. She said the students and chefs are excited about the upcoming event already, despite the sudden challenge of gathering the ingredients and equipment needed for their presentation. “It isn’t often anyone gets an invitation to an inauguration, and for our students, on top of everything else they will experience, they will have a wonderful addition for their resumes.”
Mercyhurst will be the only culinary school participating in the celebration. Those involved in the North East culinary program earn an associate degree in culinary arts that prepares students to enter or advance in the field of food-service management. Students become proficient in cooking and acquire the management skills necessary for the food-service industry as they complete a curriculum with a foundation of culinary arts courses that includes baking and pastry, hot and cold food preparation, wine education and the production of food to be consumed in a restaurant setting. Hospitality management and liberal arts courses broaden this curriculum.