Finding a mentor

By Jasmine Harmon

This school year is quickly coming to an end, with students from all over going back home to family and to work at their new or annual summer jobs. Walnut Hill College is closing for the summer as of July 1, 2017, and many of the students will be working to save up money to pay bills, to have casual spending money for summer trips, and for upcoming school trips to the Bahamas and France. But, should working be just clocking in and out of work daily to earn money? No! Working should also be about improving yourself, learning more about your job, and learning more about the career field you are interested in. One good way to do that would be by finding yourself a professional mentor.

Mentoring is a term generally used to describe a relationship between a less experienced individual, called a mentee or protégé, and a more experienced individual known as a mentor. The length of the relationship between a mentor and mentee can vary based on the circumstances, but, no matter the length, the mentee is always trying to learn as much as they can from their mentor. One of the hardest things about the mentor-mentee relationship is actually finding a mentor. Kerry Hannon, an article contributor for the Forbes business magazine, wrote an article on 12 different ways that you can find a mentor, and three of the most helpful tips, I would say, are 1) ask yourself what you want in a mentor, 2) steer clear of the formal request, and 3) listen.

Before you say “I want a mentor” and go out looking for the first person who says they will be your mentor, you should first stop and analyze what kind of professional mentor you want and need. You can start by looking at yourself and figuring out what you need to work on and want to learn. Perhaps you need to pick up your speed in the kitchen. To learn a skill like that, you may ask the fastest or most seasoned chef in the kitchen to teach you their organizational habits for the kitchen and have them train you so that those same organizational habits become your own. Figuring out the kind of mentor you need will save you so much more time when it comes to selecting a mentor because of how detailed your needs are.

When you figure out who you want your mentor to be, sometimes it is better just to let the mentor-mentee relationship happen on its own instead of plainly asking someone “Hey, will you be my mentor?” The forceful action of asking someone if they would be your mentor can sometimes throw people off and may deter them from getting involved. In many cases a mentor can be found in your everyday life. For example, many teachers may start to teach interested students about topics that aren’t thoroughly covered in class. As the student shows constant interest in the topic, the teacher will continue to go out of their way to teach the student, creating a strong mentor-mentee relationship. Other ways that an unofficial mentor relationship may happen is in sports and/or group activities when someone very trained in a specific sport trains a younger, inexperienced member how to perfect the game or activity. Every opportunity to find a mentor is unique and may call for a more direct or indirect method, but it is up to you to choose which one works best.

Listening is a very important skill that everyone should have. It benefits us every day, even if we don’t believe so. Great learning opportunities happen when you observe and listen to others. For example, if you have a mentor who is willing to teach you everything they know, but you constantly interrupt their teaching sessions with useless information and don’t pay attention to the lessons they give, you may have just missed an important lesson and are wasting your mentor’s time. Paying good attention so that you know when to listen and when to get off topic benefits you and helps out your mentor at the same time.

So, if you are going to be working this summer, why not change up your routine and find a mentor near you to guide you on a topic that you are really interested in? Not only will you learn from the experience, but it is a good way to make friends and build lasting work relationships.

-Jasmine Harmon, Student Leader
Restaurant Management, Class of July 2018


By Matthew Cowles

For those of us who enjoy cheese and simply will not settle for that yellow brick of cheddar that has never been aged, it is hard to satisfy that craving. Going to Whole foods or Di Bruno Brothers can get expensive after a while. I mean, after all, who can afford $40.00 for a pound cheese every week; certainly not I. Which brings me to my point: why not make it yourself? Here at Walnut Hill College during the bachelor program, you get a taste of this wonderful activity. For the first half of Canning and Jarring class, which has merged with Cheese Making class, you will get to make a number of cheeses yourself. You will find that it is not as hard as it may seem; in fact, it is very practical.

Having learned from that class, I have decided to spend my summer further teaching myself how to make and age cheeses on my own. I encourage anyone interested in cheese to try this out if you have the time–you will not be disappointed. The list of materials needed for this is actually quite small. You will need a cheese press, which runs for about $150 on Amazon, a wine fridge for aging your cheese, as well as citric acid, direct-set mesophilic starter, direct-set thermophilic starter, rennet, stainless steel bowls, a thermometer, and a mold for hard cheeses. Of course, you do not need all of these cultures for cheese, but with this, you will be able to make anything from ricotta to manchego or the ever so delightful drunken goat, with the addition of red wine, that is.

When working with cheese, it is imperative that sanitation is always on your mind. You must wash and sanitize everything before use, including the sauce pot that will be used to heat up your milk product. Nobody likes floaties and specks of old, burnt food in their cheese. If that happens, you could end up making a blue cheese that isn’t supposed to be blue or even give an off-color or an astringent-like flavor to your cheese.

When looking for recipes, I have found to be one of the best to go to for ideas and new cheeses to try. This summer, I will be making drunken goat, manchego, and aged tomme cheese. When aging cheeses, you will need a wine fridge so that you can set the correct temperature for the process, humidity, and temperature, all of which play a huge role in this step. During the aging process, it is typical for a cheese to dry out and even develop a hard rind. To prevent this, you can coat the cheese with a high-quality olive oil or even dip the cheese into cheese wax, which will help to protect it from the air.

With this, you are ready to begin your journey. Go on and grab a friend or a family member and bond over some cheese. Although it can be a lengthy process, it is very rewarding in both flavor and memories. The biggest reward, however, is the money you save. This cheese will last longer–and taste better–and less goes a long way in this case. So smile and say “cheese!”

-Matthew Cowles, Student Leader
Culinary Arts, Class of July 2018

Georges Perrier returns to the culinary stage at “Le Bec-Fin Redux”

On Friday, June 16, internationally-acclaimed chef Georges Perrier hosted Le Bec-Fin Redux, his first gastronomic event as Master-in-Residence at Walnut Hill College. 100 guests joined Chef Perrier for a six-course dinner that included classic dishes from his famed restaurant, Le Bec-Fin, as well as a French wine pairing with each course. The evening offered an opportunity for Chef Perrier to debut his new role at the College and also to share his culinary talents with the public once again.

Photos above courtesy of Marie Fritz

In preparation for Le Bec-Fin Redux, Chef Perrier worked closely alongside Walnut Hill College’s chef instructors and students to recreate his signature dishes. It was all-hands-on-deck in the College’s kitchens and dining rooms, as 100 beautifully and carefully crafted plates of each course were served to the eagerly awaiting guests. The six-course menu for the evening included:

  • An assortment of amuse-bouches: Snails in Champagne Sauce with Hazelnut-Chartreuse Butter, Lobster Bisque with Scotch Whisky, and Terrine of House Smoked Salmon
  • Terrine of Foie Gras Scented with Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Le Bec-Fin Crab Cake with Light Mustard Sauce
  • Roast Spring Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Vegetables
  • A selection of French cheeses
  • A panache of desserts: Floating Island with Caramelized Raspberries, Pineapple Poached with Ginger, Frozen Grand Marnier Soufflé, Black Currant Sorbet, and Gâteau au Chocolat Le Bec-Fin

The dinner concluded with guests receiving a gift of assorted pastries from Chef Perrier and even having the chance to chat and take a photo with him. Overall, the night was a great success and, hopefully, a sign of good things to come when Georges takes on his other duties at the College in the fall.

As Master-in-Residence, Chef Perrier will teach classes, host special dinners, and lead workshops for professional chefs. His next event will be a Gastronomic Tour of France from July 2-9. The public is invited to join him and his co-host, Chef Esther McManus, as they travel through Burgundy, Champagne, and Paris, visiting historic landmarks, champagne houses, wineries, farms, and, of course, many restaurants. Then, in the fall, Chef Perrier will lead a workshop on his specialty sauces that will also be open to the public.

Stay tuned for updates about Georges Perrier’s new role as Master-in-Residence and the events and classes he will host, and take a look at some photos from Le Bec-Fin Redux below.

Photos below (from top to bottom) courtesy of Angela Lutz, Ruth Payne, and Marie Fritz


Restaurant Management

By Michelle Montiel

Most of us attending Walnut Hill College are striving to succeed in a career in the hospitality industry. Working long shifts, in particular on weekends, we’ve learned to prioritize and meet the satisfaction of our guests, working to the best of our ability to accommodate their needs. As a student majoring in Restaurant Management, I’ve learned that service is a critical factor in helping customers to decide whether they had an exceptional experience, which will determine their judgment and the chances of them returning. However, it is very important to be a leader and role model as a manager in order to create an environment that encourages your wait staff to boost their morale and provide the unforgettable service your guest deserves.

As mentioned earlier, it is very important to be a role model, the reason being that this industry is filled with many employees who may have little experience or even be in their first job. Therefore, it is critical to lead by example and teach them how to cope with the high-stress environment of customer service, which can be challenging but highly appreciated. Proper training also plays a huge role when hiring new employees and making sure your overall staff is capable of aiming for a high performance. Taking the time to train a new employee thoroughly leads to higher employee retention and increased productivity. Listening can set the standard for making employees feel respected. Constantly being involved, talking with individual employees, asking questions, and soliciting ideas are ways to show that their work and opinions are valued. Last, but not least, rewarding exceptional service is key. Recognizing a job well done and showing appreciation for your employees’ hard work can go a long way toward raising morale among staff.

All of these tips and suggestions are very important to succeed in the restaurant industry, allowing you to begin with a positive wait staff that is eager to provide excellent service. As students at Walnut Hill College, we learn effective tactics that will allow us to obtain–and handle successfully–managerial positions, thereby growing and expanding our knowledge within the foodservice and hospitality industry.

-Michelle Montiel, Student Leader
Restaurant Management, Class of July 2018

Life hacks for culinary and hospitality students

By Cecelia Johnson-Chavis

Here are a few tips gathered from some of the Walnut Hill College community to make life a little easier!

1) Mixing bowls stuck together? There’s no sense in trying to pry them open with all of your strength. Instead, wedge one side of a pair of metal tongs between them. With a little pressure, they should separate easily.

2) Commuting with a uniform can be challenging. Keep ironed aprons or shirts pressed between your books or laptop to keep them from getting wrinkled in your backpack.

3) When measuring small amounts, instead of a huge bowl, use a plastic bowl scraper as a vessel. It will save space and be more precise.

4) Invest in ice cream or cookie scoops for fast and even portioning. Whether you’re making sweet or savory foods, they come in handy.

5) Peeling ginger? Don’t waste your time with a vegetable peeler. A metal spoon works just as well and much faster.

6) Suddenly have the hiccups while serving? Spare yourself from a potentially embarrassing moment and swallow a packet of sugar.

Cecelia Johnson-Chavis, Student Leader
Culinary Arts, Class of March 2018

Keeping calm in the kitchen

By Kim Stefanelli

From working the line on a busy Saturday night, to opening up and prepping for brunch on a crowded Sunday morning, the kitchen never slows down for anyone. It’s easy to get stuck in a whirlwind when the high speed of the kitchen is all around you. There are always so many factors that can slip you up, but it’s important to stay on your toes and be ready for whatever your shift throws at you. The restaurant industry is an always-changing environment, hopping from one thing to the next. From new plating ideas to new techniques, you never know what to expect from the day ahead, so you have to stay prepared for the seemingly impossible. The industry can be hard to handle sometimes, given the demanding nature of working in restaurants, bakeries, hotels, etc. No matter the job, I guarantee there is no day that will be completely stress-free. So I’m here to share some helpful tips for when you feel yourself getting stressed out, because I know we’ve all been there.

1) Take a breath. If you need some air after a stressful night on the line, let your chef know and I’m positive they’ll be okay with it.

2) Mistakes happen. If you mess up a plate or “mise out” a recipe incorrectly, start over and don’t let it ruin the rest of your shift.

3) Keep a positive attitude. It can get very tense in the kitchen, but if you keep a smile on your face and brush things off, nothing can bother you.

4) Remember your passion for the industry. When things get tough, just remember why you’re there: because you love it.

Being in college while working in the industry has been crazy, but it has taught me so much and I’m forever grateful for the experiences. It teaches you how to have control over your life, how to handle multiple responsibilities at once, and, mainly, how to work efficiently. The hospitality industry is one of the most stressful fields in which to work, but it’s all worth it. You’ve got this!

Kim Stefanelli, Student Leader
Pastry Arts, Class of July 2018