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Cooking Up Opportunities for Culinary Students

By |2020-06-23T16:17:25-04:00April 3rd, 2020|Categories: Health A-Z|

High school student Nora Lombardo has the recipe for success in CentraState’s kitchens. She spends her mornings surrounded by the sweet scents of rising pastry dough and cake batter. For her, baking is a heartfelt art.

“I like making people happy and putting smiles on their faces,” says Nora.

Nora, from Middletown, is a student baker at The Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center, crafting decadent desserts like tiramisu for patients. She is one of many high school students from the Career Center at Monmouth County Vocational School District (MCVSD) taking part in its Structured Learning Experience (SLE), where they work side-by-side with seasoned culinary professionals in CentraState’s kitchens, a partnership that began eight years ago.

“The students are educated on meeting patient and resident needs while learning about menu options, dietary restrictions, efficiency, and food safety,” says Timothy Lutcza, structured learning coordinator for MCVSD.

According to Timothy and co-coordinator Darin Muly, this SLE enables MCVSD students to sample responsibilities in CentraState Medical Center’s main kitchen, in the employee dining room, and at The Manor. The students take traditional classes at their home high schools in the morning and attend the Career Center in the afternoon for culinary education, with the opportunity to spend two afternoons a week in the field.

Students thrive under CentraState’s culinary leaders, who teach them all aspects of food services. Deanna Curry, executive chef, oversees the students in the medical center’s robust kitchen. John Todd, Jr., director of dining services at The Manor (pictured above), has been involved with the mentorship program over the past three years and has trained more than 30 students.

“We help them gain experiences and culinary principles that very few of their classmates will have at graduation day,” says Todd, Jr.

Gary Triolo, director of food and nutrition services for CentraState Healthcare System, noted the “positive experience” felt by CentraState staff when working with the students.

“It brightens the workday and gives our staff a sense of pride to be able to give back and help these students not only with job skills, but also with life skills,” says Gary.

Many of the students feel that the knowledge cultivated through this program is beneficial for the next phase of their careers. Some students are even hired after graduation.

“I am proud that I was able to come to CentraState,” says Nora. “This is a really big opportunity for me.”

No matter where these students go next, the team at CentraState is proud to have helped them rise and succeed as young culinary professionals. After all, the proof is quite literally in the pudding.

“They leave us feeling confident with a sense of accomplishment,” adds Gary. “It’s awesome to know that our team has a positive impact on these students.”

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