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Making the cut

Deerfield Inn teaches culinary students

New England Culinary Institute intern Chase Eozzo, 21, of Pennsylvania cuts vegetables in the kitchen of Champney's Tavern and Restaurant at the Deerfield Inn.

New England Culinary Institute intern Chase Eozzo, 21, of Pennsylvania cuts vegetables in the kitchen of Champney's Tavern and Restaurant at the Deerfield Inn.

DEERFIELD — The scents of roasted prime rib, maple leaf burgers and French onion soup waft from the Champney’s Tavern kitchen where four culinary students are hard at work, preparing meals for guests and learning the skills of their trade.

Since its re-opening in April, the Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern at the Deerfield Inn has hosted college interns from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Another intern is also from Holyoke Community College.

Each student chose the Deerfield Inn for the internship — the place where they will get hands-on experience and apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world.

The internships are for six months. Students are paid for their work and are provided free lodging.

For more than 30 years, the school has used an apprenticeship model to teach its small student body culinary arts, baking and pastry arts as well as hospitality and restaurant management.

This is the first year the Deerfield Inn has worked with NECI students, but the two organizations are already proving to be a good match.

Foremost, the two both emphasize farm-to-table-style cooking.

NECI stresses to students the importance of making connections with farmers and bringing freshly grown food to restaurant tables.

And Champney’s kitchen does exactly that — it uses local produce, local meat and its own backyard herb garden.

The tavern gets its vegetables from the Small Farm and Atlas Farm in Deerfield and the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland. For its goat cheese, used to make flatbread dishes, it turns to Sangha Farm in Ashfield. And for its pork and ground beef, it works with Yazwinski Farm.

Outside, between the Carriage House and the inn, the tavern has its own herb garden to grow parsley, chives and tarragon.

Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern at the Deerfield Inn is a perfect spot for students to hone their skills. From large dinner parties to tavern-style eating and drinking, the students get a bit of everything. Champney’s offers students with different aspirations the opportunity to get the experience they need to achieve their goals.

For Marshall Cates, of Maine, that dream would be to own his own home-style cooking restaurant one day.

“If your grandmother or mother cooked it, I’m going to cook it,” Cates said. “I want to get back to the roots. Cook from the heart.”

The 20-year-old was one of the first students to use the kitchen when it re-opened.

Known as the meat guy at the Inn, Cates has learned to brine poultry and pork and preserve foods. He is usually the go-to guy to make cuts of meat.

“I never knew how to do that before working here,” Cates said. “It’s a good learning experience for me.”

Having local farmers show up at the restaurant with eggs and produce is one aspect Cates enjoys.

“I can connect a face to the food,” Cates said. “If I see a (farmer) come in with eggs, I can relate and I hope to build that relationship for the future. It’s building ties in the industry.”

Though Cates’ internship ends in October, he hopes to stay on full-time to get more experience.

Dylan Miller of South Hadley, on the other hand, has been working at the tavern for about two weeks. So far, she’s been busy learning recipes, getting acquainted with the kitchen and learning the ropes.

The aspiring caterer and baker said the experience has been necessary for her to apply lessons she learned at school to the real world restaurant. She will complete her apprenticeship in December.

“I’m hoping to take as much from here as I can,” Miller said. “I’m always willing to learn and be productive.”

Chase Eozzo, 21, of Pennsylvania, has also studied at Champney’s since its re-opening.

“It’s been really awesome,” Eozzo said. “As soon as we got here, we got put into action, making each dish and doing all the prep kitchen work.”

Eozzo is trying to make his stay at Deerfield an all-around experience.

“I like how I have my hands in every part of the restaurant — doing dishes, prep work, banquets and parties,” Eozzo said. “Working with the chefs is awesome. They make everything easy to understand. This place has a lot of respect for everyone.”

Eozzo would like to open his own restaurant some day, but he wants to take his time learning from each place he works.

In addition to prep work at Champney’s, Eozzo is dabbling in restaurant management and bartending. Eozzo aspires to also be a beverage specialist who pairs beers and wines with different foods.

“Culinary is endless,” Eozzo said. “That’s why I’m here. One dish can be made 1,000 different ways.”

The three interns met Innkeeper Jane Howard at an internship fair at their school and decided to pursue the inn together.

Andrea Olanyk, a Holyoke Community College student, has worked at the tavern since May.

It is actually her first time working in a kitchen, but she is finding the lessons she learned in the classroom apply directly to the restaurant.

“This is different and new to me,” she said.

Olanyk previously worked on a farm and loves the farm to table theme of the restaurant.

So far, Olanyk has learned to scale-up recipes and how to use different style ovens.

“I’ve learned so much here,” Olanyk said. “I learned how to produce large quantities and keep the same quality.”

The 21-year-old Sunderland woman works mostly with pastries in Champney’s kitchen. The learning coincides with her future goal — to open her own bake shop focusing on traditional Ukrainian baked goods, pies and cakes.

She plans to use her family’s secret recipes to concoct the desserts.

Teaching the interns are chefs Erik Remick and Sarah Klein.

“It’s a great way to have people come into the kitchen to learn. They bring their ambition and continue to learn their craft,” Klein said.

The inn chefs also benefit from the experience.

“In this business, you’re always teaching. Even for myself, I’m always learning. I will never know everything or be bored,” Klein said.

“I think it’s fun and challenging,” Remick said. “It’s exciting to work with people excited about being in this industry. It’s nice to work with people excited about food and learning.”

As they teach the students, Remick said he tries to reinforce the basic skills in sanitation and proper food preparation. He also tries to get the students to work on the lines to serve guests.

“It’s reinforcing skills they got at school and showing them what it is really like,” said Remick.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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