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


Cheesehead

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 cheesemaking.com 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


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


What opportunities are at Walnut Hill College?

By Steven Benton

Here at Walnut Hill College, there are many opportunities for students to engage in fun and career-related extracurricular activities, whether it’s our clubs on campus or the many internship opportunities that the College has to offer.

What opportunities are at the College?

Our college is different from many other colleges. We have many clubs that offer opportunities for you to learn skills for your professional career, like Healthy Cooking & Baking Club and Cocktail Club. These clubs give you the chance to learn about different cooking techniques and different drinks that you can create for your business, respectively. Get more information about our clubs by clicking here!

Other opportunities include the internships that each student must complete to earn their degree. The College can help you find an internship site that suits your major from among the hundreds of sites that have been approved by the College. Get more information about internships here!

Who can help you find opportunities?

Many of the instructors here at the College can help you find opportunities in your professional career. But one person who can help you a lot is Mrs. Bonner, the Career Development Coordinator. She is the person you talk to about your internship as well as job placements after graduation. She can help you find and, hopefully, obtain an internship at a reputable hospitality business in the Greater Philadelphia area.

How can I use those opportunities?

The opportunities you get here at Walnut Hill College can help you wherever you go in the hospitality field. Whether it is in your personal life or your professional career, any opportunity here at the College can help you.

Opportunities can be found all over this College; you just have to be willing to look for them.

Steven Benton, Student Leader
Restaurant Management, Class of July 2018


How can a seasonal, locally grown tomato make you and the planet Earth happier?

By Kenan Rabah

The fruit and vegetable section in any supermarket is definitely my favorite section. The wonderful, shiny vegetables and fruits are always perfectly arranged with the same color and size, and some of them are even cut, boxed, and ready for you to eat or cook right away. Furthermore, you can find all different varieties available for you at any time of the year, regardless of their season. Brussels sprouts in the summer and berries in the winter? HOW CONVENIENT! But is it really as good as it seems?

The seasonal, local ingredients trend has become more popular nowadays, and it is mostly associated with the farm-to-table movement, which is a social movement that promotes serving local foods in restaurants and food operations. Since the 2000s, the number of farm-to-table operations has grown rapidly in America, and according to the National Restaurant Association in 2015, “four of the top ten trends [were] related to local foods.” So we can see that the culinary scene is driven toward seasonality and locality with regard to ingredients; but how does this improve our experience as customers or chefs, and what about the environment?

It is cheaper: When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. Moreover, local produce doesn’t need to be shipped long distance, and that will save so much money and will certainly lower the cost of the ingredients.

It is more flavorful: For chefs and customers, I think the flavor of the ingredient is as important as the cost, if not more so. When food is not in season, it is either grown in hothouses or shipped from different places around the world, and both affect its flavor. Forcing food to grow out of season will definitely affect the flavor because it won’t get the energy needed from nature to grow and develop properly. Transporting crops requires early harvest and refrigeration so they don’t rot during transportation, and this will definitely result in a lack of flavor compared to when crops ripen in their natural environment.

It is healthier: The early harvest and transportation of the crop will affect its nutritional value. First of all and as mentioned before, vegetables and fruits are best when they are fully developed in their natural environment, so early harvest will prevent the development of full flavor and nutrients in the crops. Furthermore, transporting food might require further processing like irradiation (zapping the produce with a burst of radiation to kill germs) or preservatives (like wax) to protect the produce, and while this might not have a serious effect on bodily health, it’s most certain that food is safer without these treatments.

It is also looking after the planet: Purchasing local foods and eating in season helps to protect the planet, because you are reducing the number of miles the food needs to reach you and, therefore, reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport it, and this obviously helps reduce the pollution caused by burning fuel in the air. Furthermore, eating in-season foods will minimize the human impact on the natural cycle of growing foods, and the less technology we use to grow foods, the less polluting energy sources will be used.

Eating in season from local suppliers is much healthier for you and for the planet, and with regard to all of the facts mentioned before, the earth provides us with amazing foods and produce that are perfect just the way they are, so why do we need to make an extra effort to produce things that won’t be as good as if they were natural? Take advantage of nature as is.

Kenan Rabah, Student Leader
Culinary Arts, Class of March 2018


Teamwork

By Kady Fox, Steve Benton, and Lisa Atkinson

Working as a team is something that we practice at Walnut Hill College on a daily basis. Although teamwork is not often talked about, every student contributes to the flow of service. Teamwork benefits us greatly while we work together in the classrooms, and it helps us even more in our production and operation classes. Together, we all work through a system to accomplish an overall goal.

Teamwork at this College has a large role in all classroom settings. For pastry students, production in the morning requires the students to work together to produce all products for the Pastry Shop as well as desserts for dinner service later that evening. One specific example of teamwork shown by pastry students would be the production of bread. Individual students are required to communicate and interact during each step of mixing, shaping, proofing, and baking to produce the final product.

Our culinary students fulfill three different types of production-based classes. The first of these is morning production. In this classroom, students prepare food for morning service in the Pastry Shop and are required to fulfill guests’ needs upon request. The students communicate with one another in terms of replenishing and restocking items in the Pastry Shop. Students are also required to help prep food for lunch production, which follows shortly after. Lunch production necessitates multiple tasks in the kitchen. Students are not only producing food for the public but are also given the opportunity to create dishes for prospective students during luncheons for visiting high schools.

Dinner service requires teamwork from both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house students. Our College has four different restaurants, which are open to the public. Dinner production takes place in two of our six kitchens, which means that the production of food can come out of either kitchen. Communication is ideal during dinner service, because both management and culinary students need to work together for the flow of the service to be successful. Culinary students prep and cook and also have to learn all of the menus being served. The culinary students are required to have one front-of-the-house class to understand the importance of service and the relationship between management and the culinary and pastry side of restaurant operations.

During dinner service, teamwork among management students takes on a huge role. Each student is designated a spot throughout service, which requires them individually to fulfill their tasks. Management relies on the culinary students to produce and turn out dishes in a timely manner upon request from the front-of-the-house. But for this to happen, communication is key. Allergies, dietary restrictions, and special occasions are all standard information that both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house should be aware of before dinner service begins. Also, if there should be any mistakes, complaints, or incidents, everyone should be aware of the situation and be ready to correct everything to make the guest satisfied to the best of our ability.

At our College, we have multiple departments that contribute to the daily success of production as well as service. Pastry and culinary combined help transition from morning to lunch production, maintaining guest satisfaction during the process. From lunch to dinner service, management and culinary students focus on communication and teamwork to help run restaurants that are open to the public. In a full day’s worth of classes, each student gains the skills to communicate and work with their fellow students, which, as a result, helps them to hone their teamwork tactics and contribute to the success of the College as a whole.

Kady Fox, Student Leader
Hotel Management, Class of July 2017

Steve Benton, Student Leader
Restaurant Management, Class of July 2018


Getting involved on campus makes the college experience

By Daniel Singer and Jasmine Harmon

It is very well known that getting involved in college activities will present you with many benefits. The U.S. News Higher Education site has a list of ways that getting involved in college activities will help students prosper, and it also gives some broad ways that students can have fun getting involved; however, every college is different. Making the full college experience is more than just doing classwork and forming study groups. It is also about bettering yourself and constantly learning, especially here at Walnut Hill College. Along with doing great in your studies, you will notice that many students build friendships with fellow classmates and teachers by bonding over similar interests and life- and industry-related goals. Students grow with their classmates, gaining new skills and abilities from their classes that they can show out in the workforce. Walnut Hill College constantly provides ways for students to get involved on campus and to have fun while learning new things, from clubs to job fairs to Student Life and Learning activities and more.

Be sure to check out our Student Life page by clicking here!

The following are some accounts from Jasmine Harmon on ways she has gotten involved on campus:

Since coming to Walnut Hill College I have noticed how beneficial getting involved in campus functions can be. From making new friends with classmates to networking with industry professionals, there is always a chance to further your understanding of the hospitality industry. The Student Life and Learning point system at the College is a great system that allows students to get away from some stress in their life and learn about topics that they are very interested in. There are over 30 different clubs and activities that students can attend throughout the week, from Hospitality Engagement Club and Wine Club to Disney Club and Napkin Folding Club, there is always something new to experience. During those clubs, students learn about something new that interests them and they get to share that new knowledge with friends and family.

In my second term at Walnut Hill College, while attending the Student Life and Learning Awards Ceremony, I encountered a few upperclassmen who went above and beyond getting their mandatory minimum of five points a term by getting around 80 points for one term. Those upperclassmen said that they got those points by having a combination of a passion for what they do and a dedication to their goal of always wanting to learn more. That was an eye-opening moment for me because I saw how getting involved on campus could push you to keep your mind open to new possibilities, and it showed me that, to progress in the hospitality industry, sometimes you need a focused mindset on finishing what you started.

Another way that I have seen students get involved on campus would be volunteering during Community Education classes held at the College for the public. Community Education classes focus on different cuisines and food styles for people interested in learning certain aspects of cooking and baking, taught by chefs from Walnut Hill College and sometimes chefs from local, well-known restaurants. In those classes, volunteers may be asked to assist the chefs while they teach the class or to help serve the food that the students cooked so they can have an enjoyable dining experience. People from all over Philadelphia and sometimes other areas come to the classes, and it is learning experience for both them and our student volunteers.

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

The following are some accounts from Daniel Singer on ways he has gotten involved on campus:

Since I started at Walnut Hill College in 2014, one of the first things I noticed was how active the campus was in terms of clubs and student activities. Seeing this activity and having the weight of knowing I had to attend at least five events every term seemed like a big deal to someone who just started college and wasn’t sure how college worked. As I started attending these clubs, such as the Cocktail and Wine Clubs with Professor McCartney, Hospitality Engagement Club with Professor Brooks, and Coffee and Tea Club with Ms. Copp, I realized how easy and how awesome it was to start getting involved on campus.

Since the beginning of my first year, I have been pushed into some awesome responsibilities by going to these clubs. For example, I was able to help get students involved with the Community Education classes and the Wine Challenge dinners with Professor McCartney, where we had to study two or three specific wines and present them to about 20 people. Getting involved with these activities, for me, opened doors in the College that I otherwise would not have had opened. Activities like these allow students to connect with teachers and get involved in the hospitality industry in very specific ways. Attending these events, while it is mandatory that we get a minimum of five points a term, is a way of creating a positive, active vibe on campus.

From a professional standpoint, hosting events that create reasons for people to come together is one of the most important aspects of the hospitality business. Creating a network of students who can be each other’s greatest asset when building or working in a business one day is also an awesome thing to be a part of. From a student’s standpoint, having events that keep you engaged and give you reasons to get through college is one of the best motivations we could have.

-Daniel Singer, Student Leader
Restaurant Management, Class of July 2017


The Look, The Resume, and The Interview

By Kristine Alfes and Mark Schostak

Well, it’s about that time: growing up. This means there are bills to pay and things to buy, or maybe there is an upcoming date. Regardless, there is one thing holding you back: you don’t have a job! How are you supposed to get anything done? Here is some advice that will help you to land that position and create a career pathway. Take some deep breaths and keep reading.

The First Step: The Look

Play the part. First impressions are, unfortunately, based on looks. Therefore, you must look eager to work. Do not carry yourself in a droopy manner or look like a mess. The easiest way is to stand up straight and walk with a purpose. All you need to do is be relaxed but still be a professional version of yourself. This translates through your clothes also. Clean, neat, and professional is what most employers look for when meeting a new hire. Gentlemen should consider trimmed facial hair, fresh breath, and nice cologne. A clean, pressed button-down shirt with a tie will be enough. If you’re going for that higher position in the company, tuck that shirt in and throw a suit jacket on top. Avoid sneakers at all cost. Ladies should consider a modest blouse with a pair of slacks or a clean-cut dress. Practice good hygiene and exemplify professionalism in your overall appearance.

The Second Step: The Resume

Whether you’re going for your first job or your last, always maintain an organized and updated resume. Any employer noted on your resume should have a small blurb stating what positions you held and what job duties you performed. Everyone looks for experience first, so sell yourself to be the best candidate for the position. If you do not have any previous skills to show off, write down accomplishments. Good grades in school, extracurricular activities, or community service work will give a positive image to the prospective employer.

The Third Step: The Interview

Employers will often conduct an interview to see what kind of person you are and if you’re a good fit for the position and company. The interviewer will ask an abundance of questions–the trick to blazing through the questions is to be relaxed and focused. Do not over-complicate the answers so as to avoid saying things that you do not want them to hear. Answers that are plenty informative without being too detailed or long-winded will more likely lead to a good interview. Always be honest, and whatever you do, do not be condescending toward any person when describing a previous experience or when describing those around you currently. Afterward, you will have the opportunity to ask a few questions of your own. Do not be afraid to ask any questions about the company, leadership, or growth opportunities. It shows that you have an interest in them and are eager to be a part of the company. Always research the company prior to the interview, as it is good to have some general knowledge and questions prepared in advance. Be mindful of the types of questions as well. Asking about pay during the first interview may lead to mixed reviews about you in the employer’s eyes. As long as you are the best version of yourself, that position is golden.

These are the basic steps to gaining the experience and confidence to get you through to that job. Always have a sense of professionalism about you, but do not go overboard or understated. Everyone has the potential to make an impact, one job at a time. Plus, if you ever feel nervous, just take a deep breath and take one step forward at a time.

We know that you can do this. Good luck!
Read the career success stories of our alumni clicking here!

Kristine Alfes, Student Leader
Culinary Arts, Class of July 2017

Mark Schostak
Culinary Arts, Class of July 2018