Preparing a generation of chefs, hospitality professionals
Students who enroll in and complete Lackawanna College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management degree programs are already succeeding in the workforce and in externship opportunities that they’ve completed over the course of the summer. The in-depth programs are led by Chefs Stephanie Decker and Kristen McNally.
Christopher Kutz, 25, a member of the Class of 2014, began his studies at Lackawanna’s Lake Region Center in Hawley. He had previously studied music education at Millersville University following his graduation from Wallenpaupack Area High School in 2007.
“Initially when I started, I was just a Hospitality major, and a couple of months into it Stephanie coerced me into being a dual major. I was actually the first dual major,” he recalled.
The courses he had taken at Lackawanna showed Chris that his heart was in hospitality, and he soon sought opportunities outside the dining room at Woodloch Resort. The destination in his hometown of Hawley, Pa., covers about 240 acres and includes a family resort, championship golf course, guest homes, award-winning destination spa, and more.
During his externship at Woodloch, Kutz divided his time between the dining room, front desk, and kitchen, providing a practical base for the first two semesters of courses he had completed. After completing his second year of classes, he moved to the front desk full time. Following graduation in May 2014, he was promoted to front desk supervisor.
“My time at Lackawanna and my studies there have helped shape me into a more professional individual and have given me the skill set to be in a management position here at Woodloch and my future goals,” he said. “Since there were smaller classes, you never felt like you were lost in the mix. We had a unique, close relationship with Stephanie and Kristen and our other instructors. They really cared about providing the best education possible.”
Lackawanna’s low tuition rates and accessible satellite centers in northeastern Pennsylvania made it affordable and convenient for Chris to test his mettle in the kitchen and in the front of the house.
“If you’re unsure of where you’re heading in life, jumping into a four-year school is incredibly expensive,” he said. “Going to Lackawanna and sort of getting your feet wet, it’s not as risky and it’s certainly more welcoming in preparing you for higher education.”
Kutz is expected to serve as an adjunct professor of Hospitality Management at Lackawanna beginning this fall while continuing his duties at Woodloch, and he intends to achieve a master’s degree in Hospitality Management.
Externs get cooking
Students returning to campus this fall to continue their Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management classes will draw on the nearly 200 hours of externship experience gained this summer.
Nineteen-year-old Victoria Henning, of Scranton, completed her 180-externship in the kitchen at the historic Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel. The outgoing Scranton High School graduate is one of many dual majors who understands the importance of learning about the function of the kitchen as well as the role of servers and hosts who connect directly with customers in the food industry.
“I’m kind of a people person. I love talking to people. I knew I wanted to do something where I could work in a hotel or start my own business, and that’s where Hospitality Management came in,” she said. “I’m still going to go along further with Hospitality, but I’m definitely better with cooking now,” she added with a laugh.
Her externship between her first and second year of classes has been a fun and rewarding experience, she said.
“You learn so much,” she said of the kitchen staff at the Radisson. “These people are some of the nicest people in the world. If I didn’t know how to do something, they taught me every step of the way.”
“I think this hotel is the cornerstone of the city, and it’s a great relationship that we’ve built between the hotel and the students,” said Radisson Executive Chef Chris Chludzinski. “We have two restaurants and one of the busier catering houses in this area, so students get introduced to a lot of culinary basics.”
Victoria’s courses in the Hospitality Management program have also helped to elevate her work as a waitress and hostess at Kelly’s Pub and Eatery in Scranton.
“I’m a much better waitress now. I know how to talk to people, get what they want, and please them in every way possible,” she said.
Victoria is a recipient of the Scranton Central High School Scholarship, an annual award given to two incoming freshman each from Scranton and West Scranton High Schools, and her parents Christine Ancherani and Todd Henning are both alumni.
In Hawley, Greentown resident Dominique Tarbell had an equally rewarding yet vastly different experience as an extern at the Forest Lake Club, a private membership club for outdoor enthusiasts that was founded in 1882.
Aside from working directly with club members, she’s had the unique opportunity to catch a live pheasant, kill it, and prepare it for dinner. Exercises like those, Chef Doug Kolp said, give aspiring chefs a greater ability to identify where their food come from.
Dominique, a recipient of Lackawanna’s Community Opportunity Scholarship, was particularly drawn to the lessons in her Green Hospitality course, including how environmentally-sustainable practices touch the culinary arts as much as they do in new hotel construction.
During her time at the Forest Lake Club this summer, she was able to see those sustainable practices firsthand while working with some of ingredients picked fresh from a large garden just outside the club’s kitchen.
She, too, is pursuing a dual major in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.
“I didn’t want to limit myself to just doing culinary. I wanted to be able to do something in hospitality if I was leaning more towards that later on,” she said.
Dominique, like many other students, are looking forward to their return to the Scranton campus this fall to enjoy expanded and improved kitchen space in Healey Hall. The College invested significant time and resources this summer into renovations and new equipment to perfect the state-of-the-art kitchen.