The Examiner

Great Chefs to Descend on WCC for a Great Cause

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Phil McGrath, second left, chair of Westchester Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program, with some of the program’s students. They will host four nights of demos from some of the best chefs in the county starting Oct. 16.

A college campus may be one of the last places you’ll expect to find a top-notch dining experience. But if you can get down to Westchester Community College (WCC) for one of four evenings during the next month you won’t be disappointed while also helping the school and its students.

Starting Oct. 16 and continuing three more time over a 16-evening span, WCC’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program is hosting its second Great Chefs of Westchester Cooking for WCC fundraiser. All money raised from the four programs will go toward the WCC College Foundation and Scholarship Fund, said Phil McGrath, the chair of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program.

“It’s interactive, you speak to the chefs, you watch the chefs making everything,” said McGrath, owner of the old Iron Horse Restaurant in Pleasantville and still a village resident. “Of course, you get really good food and really good drinks, and we also get to show off our facility. People who may not know the fact that WCC has a hospitality and culinary arts program. Our students get involved. They come in, they work with the chefs, quite often they get job offers from the chefs, so it’s a symbiotic thing.”

Between McGrath’s contacts in the restaurant industry and restaurateurs scouting for potential new talent to staff their businesses, the series has been able to attract some of the best chefs in the county.

The opening night on Monday, Oct. 16 will see Cristian Petitta, the chef de cuisine at Fig & Olive in Scarsdale, who will be sharing his techniques and recipes for making fresh mozzarella and pasta.

The series continues on Oct. 23 with chef Ethan Kostbar from Moderne Barn who will show how he balances his appreciation for local, hand-picked ingredients with simple, seasonal food.

On Oct. 30, Bartaco Chef John Rohland who uses fresh ingredients to create his restaurants three signature dishes.

The final evening, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, will feature Ron Gallo, chef at the Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Gorges, will demonstrate how to balance flavor and texture using fresh ingredients from New England and the Hudson Valley.

McGrath said the chefs decide what they want to demonstrate and cook for dinner while donating their food, staff and time.

“They’re supporting the program because they realize that without a program like this in the county it’s very difficult for them to get qualified workers,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for everybody, and again, it exposes our students to four different chefs, who they may never be able to go to their restaurant, and they see what they’re producing.”

The evenings are also a way for attending guests to receive a close-up view of WCC’s culinary and hospitality program. Currently, there are 126 students enrolled, some of whom will go on to four-year culinary programs, others will enter the workforce full-time while some will return their family’s restaurant, McGrath said.

Located inside WCC’s Student Center, there are two functioning commercial-style kitchens where program enrollees learn in a realistic setting.

“Experiential learning is something that’s a big trend in all disciplines because it puts into application the things that you learn,” McGrath said.

But the program is not only about cooking. It also teaches the students about all aspects of the hospitality industry, including how to run a business, how to manage people and inventory and to calculate food-cost percentages, he said. Graduates have gone on to become event planners, concierges and have had careers in hotel management.

An important aspect of the program is that students also become familiar with the issue of hunger and food insecurity, McGrath said. All students participate in the Food Bank for Westchester fundraisers, he said.

Tickets for each evening of the Great Chefs series is $150 per person. There’s room for about 40 to 50 guests for each dinner. For tickets or more information, visit




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