Published April 26, 2013
The Gourmet Experience
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RIT students learn culinary finess.
From left to right: Alex Lemenz, fourth year Biotechnology; Kelly Hurley, third year Graphic Design; Jake Snider, fifth year Industrial Engineering; Eliset Rodríguez, graduate student participated in the CAB cooking trip.
Amy Sanderson

As I walked into the New York Wine and Culinary Center (NYWCC), it was easy to feel ten times classier than usual. Dim lighting and dark wood finishes created a sophisticated mood and employees in suits warmly welcomed our group into the facility. We looked a little out of place; our casually dressed entourage consisted of students who signed up through CAB for a day trip to the NYWCC. After we finished up coat check, Merchandising Manager and Cellar Master Ryan Baldick toured us through the fancy rooms that made up the facility.

The NYWCC is a non-profit organization, and its main goal is to be an educational facility. The center also aims to support local agriculture; over 90 percent of the ingredients are from New York State. This was one of the reasons why Carol Pan, a first year Packaging Science major, decided to come on the trip.

“I want to learn about local ingredients,” Pan said. “I enjoy cooking. If there’s any good recipe, I’ll try it.” Predictably, an interest in cooking was common among students who came on the trip.

“I love cooking,” replied second year Computer Science major Vinny Patrone.

“And I love eating,” added Joy Yamasaki, a fifth year Computer Science major. The two came together on the trip since the excursion appealed to both interests.

After the quick tour, Baldick took us to a small, auditorium-style theater, where they surprised us with a wine tasting. We were seated in front of five glasses, each filled with a different type of wine. Here, Baldick introduced us to Thomas Belelieu, a sommelier (wine steward) and director of the NYWCC. As he clicked through a slideshow, Belelieu amicably explained the many characteristics of wine, its history and how to identify the type of grape or where a wine came from. Though previously I had no knowledge in this area, after the thorough explanations of each glass, I felt enlightened in the ways of wine.

Amy Sanderson

Once the wine tasting was concluded, we were led to the educational kitchen, the main portion of the trip. The kitchen was a brightly lit, open space with three islands. As we gathered around the islands and took up aprons, we were introduced to the head chef, Jeffory McLean. McLean was a chef for 28 years, and is passionate about teaching, which was what brought him to the NYWCC two years ago. He cooks primarily New American Cuisine, which uses indigenous ingredients in simple recipes.

“Don’t worry about the recipe.” McLean told us, and this was one of the most important tips. He had prepared the menu and already measured and provided ingredients for us, all we had to do was cook. There was even a bonus: We didn’t have to wash the dishes.

We broke apart into small teams, and within these teams we cooked these recipes: Caesar Salad, Roasted Root Vegetable Baton, Barley Risotto with Artisan Cheese, a Fish Filet and Chicken Thighs with Rosemary and Mushroom and Cranberry Crème Brule. We cooked fast, and with great teamwork everything was finished in about 45 minutes.

“Even if you’re struggling with the college student budget, buy as much fresh produce as possible, and try not to use much salt. Try to get to farmer’s markets,” McLean imparted upon us as we ate our delicious creations. Overall, everyone left the culinary center with a full stomach and in a good mood.

“I thought it was just fantastic,” said Kyle Kearns, a third year Hospitality major. “I want to open my own restaurant someday.” Kearns represented the Hospitality Association eBoard, as they helped to fund transportation for the trip.

“It was a good way to spend a Sunday. I’m not much of a wine person-” said Alex Lemenz, a fourth year Biotechnology major, as we left the NYWCC.

“I told you it was good!” interjected third year Graphic Design major Kelly Hurley.

“-but I’m becoming one!”

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