“Plate in three minutes.”
“Everybody know your task?”
Garbed in the white outfits of their trade, student chefs-in-training hustled in the kitchen on November 3 to get the first course ready for a special night, the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Hampton Winds, the teaching restaurant of the Northampton Community College (NCC) Culinary Arts program.
Each of five courses was selected and overseen by a different program alum, with inspiration provided by the original Hampton Winds menu. The grads each collaborated with a pair of students earlier that week to work on their contribution to the meal.
Kicking off the evening was goat cheese gnocchi. Diners smiled and savored the first course.
“The dish uses a classic flavor combination — beets, goat cheese, and walnuts — but in a different way,” said chef Nick Steed ’21. “I wanted to really let the beets shine in the dish; so, the students and I did beets three ways. We did a beet puree, pickled golden beets, and we also made beet vinegar, which took multiple days to create.”
Steed noted that he works at the Philadelphia Cricket Club thanks to a recommendation from NCC Adjunct Professor, Katie Oscavic. All of the program’s chefs have continued to help him after his graduation, he added.
“The culinary program at NCC means more to me than you can imagine,” said Steed. “These are the people who helped me take my first steps in my culinary career. They taught me all the things I would need to be successful.”
Next up was a classic nicoise salad that included in-season pomegranate, orange, and persimmon. Complementing them were hazelnuts and duck used in confit and croquettes – “autumn comfort foods, in my opinion,” said the salad’s creator, Emily Fischer ’14, manager and head chef at Limeport Inn in Coopersburg.
As a student, she learned from NCC program faculty who taught with the utmost care for their craft, Fischer recalled.
“Once I graduated, I found myself able to network with other chefs and industry folk with ease based on the culinary arts program alone,” Fischer said. “The program will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m still shocked to be participating in this event thinking back to when I was a student and looked up to the resident chefs so much.”
The third dish was salmon en croûte with herb duxelle, marinated artichokes, spinach, tuile (baked wafer), and avgolemono foam. “It showcases my passion for fusion-style cooking, where I enjoy blending different culinary traditions and flavors,” explained Christian Gonzalez, executive chef at The Shelby.
“Events like this have played a significant role in fueling my passion for cooking,” Gonzalez said. “Being able to cook alongside friends who share the same enthusiasm for culinary arts brings me immense joy.”
Named “The Hampton,” the final savory dish was “a robust and indulgent take on meat and potatoes,” said student Harold Pierson, having worked on it with chef Dan Goulet ’01, who served as executive chef at Lords Valley Country Club for more than a decade.
“By combining wholesome ingredients and flavors such as striploin, short ribs, truffle, foie gras, demi-glace [brown sauce], and, of course, butter, in an artful way, we as chefs behind the scenes made a statement,” Pierson said.
For dessert, pecan pie featured milk chocolate raspberry mousse, caramel sauce, roasted pecans, and a chocolate spring curving up to about six inches tall.
“The chocolate spring is something I don’t get to do at the shop because I have to work with the packaging that people will bring home,” said chef Alan Pitotti, who owns and runs Dolce Patisserie in Hellertown. “Stepping outside my boundaries is fun.”
The students were grateful for the opportunity to learn from their alumni mentors.
“Working with all the chefs was amazing,” said culinary student, John Birchenough, who ran the plating line under the guidance of Tyler Baxter, culinary arts instructor. “Getting to see all different styles in the kitchen at the same time, yet still being so harmonious, was very eye-opening and will continue with me for the rest of my life.”
“It’s the highlight of the year working with these amazing chefs,” said culinary student, Kathryn Gouveia. “This is an experience that I will never forget.”
The diners were equally positive.
“We should come here more often,” one diner said. “The students do a great job.”
“The food was excellent,” said another. “This was a wonderful evening.”
Former longtime instructor Sue Roth and Baxter closed the evening with remarks. Baxter thanked the attendees for their support and noted that he puts his heart and soul into every day of the Culinary Arts program.
“I tell my students all the time I’m good at two things: cooking and being a dad,” he said. “And guess what? I get to do both of those here. Every new class is a new round of ‘children’ … We’re all here for the same reason — to learn how to cook, to learn how to work as a team, to work to be better as individuals and as a collective. And it shows.”