When Pennsylvania College of Technology students began classes Aug. 16, those in baking, pastry and culinary arts majors already had their hands full as they work to fill the stomachs of the teams participating in the Little League Baseball® World Series, held just a few miles from the Penn College campus.
The college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant is the new provider of dining services inside the secure team housing area at the Little League® International complex, known as the Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove. Because the casual fine-dining restaurant is a live-learning lab for the college’s baking, pastry and culinary arts majors, students are heavily involved in the experience.
From Aug. 13-30, the college expects to prepare more than 12,000 meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – for players and coaches each day during their stay in Williamsport.
Culinary arts technology student Darius M. Williams, also a part-time cook for Le Jeune Chef, is among those helping. He has grown from a middle-schooler taking photos with the players at the event to plying his skill to prepare their meals.
“I was born and raised in Williamsport, specifically Loyalsock Township. The last time I visited Little League is when I was around the same ages as the people playing the game, so now it’s crazy to think about how fast time flies by, looking back at it, and to see that I’m one of the adults serving food to these kids,” he said. “It’s crazy. And I’m excited to have the opportunity to be able to do that.”
While Williams and about a dozen other baking, pastry and culinary arts students, faculty and Le Jeune Chef professional staff will serve the food on-site at Little League, all students and employees – and all the kitchens – in the hospitality majors will be involved preparing the food on campus, with the first week of classes devoted to the project.
“The hospitality program teaches the diversity of food preparation, from Little League to fine dining to high-end catering,” said Michael R. Triassi, director of sales and restaurant operations for the college’s hospitality program. “We do everything under the sun.”
To provide a taste of home to the traveling 10- to 12-year-olds, Chef Christopher R. Grove, executive chef for Le Jeune Chef, is adding regional offerings to the menus to highlight each of the teams’ hometowns.
Those dishes include Nashville hot chicken (in honor of the Southeast Region team), Tex-Mex pulled pork lasagna (Southwest), a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich (Great Lakes), pan-seared salmon with wild berry sauce and apple wild rice pilaf (Northwest), and pulled chicken avocado toast (West). When international teams return to the World Series in future years, the restaurant plans to incorporate those nations’ foods, as well.
The college and Little League share a long history of collaboration as the two nonprofits support each other’s missions. Students were first engaged in hands-on learning at the Little League International complex before it opened in 1959 when heavy construction equipment students moved 120,000 tons of earth to prepare the site to become the World Series’ home.
In the 1970s, the college’s students built concession stands (since relocated). In the 1980s, they renovated the dining hall where Le Jeune Chef will serve buffet-style meals this year and installed roofing and siding on two team dormitories. Building construction students have also built concrete steps at the complex, while forest technology students have completed tree work in the International Grove.
Students in the college’s paramedic and physician assistant majors typically gain hands-on experience, as well: Paramedic students stand ready, alongside crews from Susquehanna Regional Emergency Medical Services, to provide emergency care, and physician assistant students help to staff the Player Wellness Center at the Grove. (Due to the pandemic and reduced attendance, the health sciences students are not participating in 2021.)
Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour is a member and former chair of the Little League International Board of Directors.
Penn College offers 16-month associate degrees and 12-month certificates in both baking and pastry arts and culinary arts, which can be continued toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration or applied management. To learn more, call 570-327-4505 or visit www.pct.edu/culinary.