WAYNESBURG – Students in the culinary arts department at Greene County Career and Technology Center (GCCTC) will be putting on the Ritz Jan. 14 as they work alongside Chef Paul K. Haines II of Nemacolin Woodlands at the Culinary to the Capitol Dinner.
Haines will instruct the students as they prepare a select five-course dinner to be served in the atrium of the culinary dining room at the GCCTC.
Proceeds from the dinner will support five select culinary students as they head to Washington, D.C., later this month to work in the kitchens of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel for the Kentucky Bluegrass Ball at the 57th presidential inauguration.
Students selected to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity are West Greene High School sophomores Carlee Ankrom and Dorothy Lavigne, Carmichaels Area High School junior Megan Marietta, Waynesburg Central High School senior Kati Tichnor and Mapletown High School senior Ashley Greene.
As they enter the lobby of the Wardman Marriott with its cathedral ceiling lobby, these students will join the hotel’s culinary staff of more than 80 cooks in six dedicated kitchens that prepare pastries, hot foods, cold foods, and room service items. They will work under the direction of the hotel’s executive sous chef, Georg Feldschmied and Edward Lee, executive chef for the event. Lee is the chef and co-owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky.,and was named the 2010 Iron Chef America competition winner.
Greene, who is in her third year of the culinary program at the GCCTC, said she anticipates the event to be a fast-paced and hectic one, but she is not nervous.
“I think it will be a great learning experience and a great opportunity to be part of,” she said, noting her favorite area of culinary is working with pastries but she is comfortable in any area of the kitchen.
Ankrom said she was excited when she heard she would be one of the students going to the inaugural. She first began cooking with her late father and was also inspired by her brother, Joey, who was a chef in Virginia for several years.
“My mom and stepdad are really proud and want me to keep going (in culinary),” Ankrom said.
Lavigne, who is considering a career in food art photography, said she has plans to photograph the trip from the moment they depart so she can share the experience with her family. “I’m very excited. I can’t wait to see the hotel. I hope it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I know it’s going to be a lot of work but I can’t wait.”
Dan Wagner, director of the culinary arts program at GCCTC, said he is taking things one day at a time as he looks ahead. His first focus is on the Culinary to the Capitol dinner that will help to offset the cost of transportation and accommodations for his students in D.C. After that, he said he will be providing the students with blue prints of the Wardman Marriott to commit to memory and honing little things, like the technique for folding cloth napkins.
“Working side-by-side with the chef from Nemacolin Woodlands is a great learning and networking experience for these kids at the same time,” Wagner said. “They will get introduced to a different style of cooking and procedures, get to showcase their talents, and, this will give the community the opportunity to support these students who will be going to Washington, D.C.”
Wagner said the program has traditionally received great support from the community and this dinner is also a chance for the students to give back to them with a Nemacolin Woodland’s-type dining experience brought to them.
In addition to the Culinary to the Capitol dinner, the students are holding a hoagie sale to offset costs of the trip.
“The people always help but I want the kids to learn that it is important to work for something,” Wagner said. “This is a neat experience. Getting to hang out in the kitchen with a new chef, seeing what he’s got under his hat, that’s fun, that’s what this industry is about.”
In addition to Nemacolin Woodlands, Haines’ resume includes chef de partie of in-room dining at Georgia’s five star Sea Island Resort, and the executive chef of Laurel Highlands restaurants, The Summit Inn Resort and Stone Crab Inn. He is also an adjunct professor of the Westmoreland County Community College Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality through the culinary arts apprenticeship program offered at Nemacolin Woodlands.
The Kentucky Bluegrass Ball was the Washington Post editor’s pick for the best inaugural ball for the past two presidential inaugurations. This black-tie only, seated event, hosts approximately 1,500 with such past celebrity guests as boxer Mohammed Ali, actress Ashley Judd and Motown’s The Temptations. It is a presented by the Kentucky Society of Washington, D.C., with a menu that highlights Kentucky agricultural products and beverages, such as Kentucky bison tenderloin, farmed striped bass and warm vanilla pudding cake with bourbon cherries and Kentucky bourbon.
Fifty seats are available at $30 per plate, reservation only. Reservations for the semiformal dinner can be made by calling 724-627-3106.