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Culinary Arts

November 22, 2019 - 2:01pm

Above, Chef Tracy Burgio, instructor of the Culinary Arts program at the Batavia CTE Center, helps student Jaheim Merritt (Batavia HS) with his meatloaf gravy.

Submitted photos and information from the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership​.

As Chef Tracy Burgio and her Culinary Arts students at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center prepared to take over the building’s cafeteria yesterday, they had a worthy goal in mind. 

“We want to prove that you can make healthy food from scratch,” Chef Burgio said. 

Culinary Arts students normally cook lunch for faculty and staff members on Thursdays. But for yesterday's "takeover," students attending daytime classes at the center were also queued up.

“The kids have such an interest in having good cafeteria food, this project really drives home that message," the chef said.

Buffalo chicken meatloaf, mashed potatoes, grilled zucchini, apple crisp, and biscuits were prepared for them using USDA recipes.

Burgio said she has been interested in taking over the cafeteria for several years, and plans similar events on Jan. 29 and March 11.

She would like to make the partnership between her students and cafeteria staff a normal part of the Culinary Arts curriculum and would also like to incorporate locally grown produce into recipes. 

Jaheim Merritt, a Culinary Arts student and junior from Batavia High School, stood at a stove making gravy for the meatloaf.

“I think making lunch for everyone is a big responsibility, but I think it’s a good idea,” Jaheim said. “A lot of kids complain about our lunches, so we can help make a change.”

Burgio wants to show kids that healthy food can still taste good.

As students went through the lunch line, they learned nutritional facts about each food. For example, zucchini and carrots are high in vitamins A and C, and the Buffalo chicken meatloaf was high in protein and low in fat.

Culinary Arts students and Byron-Bergen High School juniors Isaiah Merrell and Austin Evert were student-leaders during the cafeteria takeover.

“I’m hoping that making lunch from scratch will help inspire the kids in the Academy,” Isaiah said.

Added Austin, “With our lunches, we don’t normally know the nutritional facts. Now we are giving them knowledge and good food.”

Below: Chef Tracy Burgio spoons out gravy during the lunch takeover. 

October 11, 2019 - 2:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in Jeanne's Table, GO ART!, Culinary Arts, news.
Here's a menu announcement for next Thursday's premier of Jeanne’s Table at GO ART!
This first eight-course Small Plates dinner will celebrate the local Fall Harvest and it promises to be a memorable experience! Cost is $60 per person and seating is limited to 20 people.
Here are some of the items that will be on the Oct. 17 menu:
  • Fresh rosemary, sea bass, bacon and ciabatta kebabs
  • Roasted Fall vegetables with chimichurri
  • Smoky peppered pork loin with apple slaw
  • Autumn herbed shrimp
  • Salted caramel-pear gallette with vanilla-scented cream
  • Lemon-thyme sorbet
Sign up today to reserve your seat and experience the rest of this delicious menu!
Craft beer and wine will be available at GO ART’s 2.0.1 Tavern, and there are multiple art exhibitions for you to view during your visit!  
Please click on this link to register for this or other future Jeanne's Table events.
October 3, 2019 - 3:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in GO ART!, business, Culinary Arts, Jeanne's Table.

Press release:

Culinary art is an important medium in the arts and officials with the local nonprofit GO ART! are realizing its significance by expanding the scope of their collaborative efforts into multiple culinary programs at the Bank Street site.

A number of food-related programs have emerged at GO ART! as they offer new food and drink opportunities in the community.

The most recent addition is Jeanne’s Table, which will offer a prix fixe eight-course theme-based dining experience once a month. Local gastronome Jeanne Walton is in charge of this enterprise that is sure to delight diners.

Cost is $60 per person and seating is limited to 20 people.

Other culinary offerings at GO ART! include Afternoon Teas, which have been offered every month for the past year and can also be booked privately, and its first Farm to Table Dinner. Tavern 2.O.1 regularly schedules wine and craft beer events; it is open to the public at 5 p.m. Wednesday –Saturday.   

Use of the commercial kitchen has increased significantly with regularly scheduled cooking classes by Genesee Valley Education Partnership.

For more information, contact Valeria Antonetty, GO ART! Facilities and Operations coordinator, at 585-343-9313.

June 1, 2019 - 12:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Culinary Arts, BOCES, Batavia CTE, food, cooking, batavia, video.
Video Sponsor

On Friday, the students in the Culinary Arts Program prepared their final projects for a group of judges. I happened to arrive in time for the last student of the day, Jose Vanegas, who made tacos and flan.

March 1, 2019 - 12:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NASA, news, BOCES, Batavia CTE, batavia, Mount Morris, food, Culinary Arts.


Students of the culinary program at Batavia CTE on Thursday presented dishes they created with the goal of cooking up something suitable for astronauts in space to a panel of judges to see if their creations might be worthy of a nationwide competition in Houston later this year.

Six students, three from Batavia and three from Mount Morris, prepared two dishes -- asparagus "fries" from Batavia and berry quinoa salad.

The dishes were scored on presentation, nutritional value and taste. The final dishes will also need to be suitable for freeze-drying to take into space.

Travis Barlow, Kevin Balkota, John Steward, Danielle Rotondo, Patrick Rae, and Darly Pochan.

Nancy Hall from NASA was also on hand to observe and advise during the competition.

There is no winner from yesterday. Both teams will have their scores presented to a panel who will select 10 teams from entries from around the nation to travel to Houston for the final competition.

Students from Batavia were Melissa Voltura, Jose Vanegas and Jason Lowe. Students from Mount Morris were Sam Meyers, Tony Uveino and Mackenzie Wheeler.







January 3, 2019 - 2:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in GO ART!, batavia, news, Culinary Arts.
GO ART!'s Culinary Classes are back!
Every second Thursday Chef Tracy Burgio will be leading culinary classes at the Seymour Place, 201 E. Main St., Batavia. Classes start at 6 p.m. and generally last two hours.
Tavern 2.o.1 will be open!
Don't delay, register today. Classes have already begun to fill up. Only eight seats available per class!
Cost for EACH CLASS is $45 per person for GO ART! members and $50 per person for non-members.
  • Jan. 10 -- Ricotta Cheese
  • Feb. 14 -- (V-Day) Chocolate Truffles
  • March 14 -- Irish Soda Bread
  • April 11 -- Carrot Cake
  • May 9 -- Handmade Fresh Pasta
  • June 13 -- Summer Risotto
February 1, 2018 - 6:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Announcements, Culinary Arts, Valentine's Day.

Say "I love you" with a special homemade treat! The Batavia Career and Technical Education Center's Culinary Arts Club will host a pop-up bakeshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Handmade scones, cherry pies, cookies, cakes and baked goods of all assortments will be for sale! 

This pop-up shop will be held in the Culinary Arts Dining Room at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. The center is located at 8250 State Street Road, Batavia. Use side door 71 and find room a-124-B.

Any questions may be directed to Chef Tracy Burgio at (585) 344-7795 or [email protected].

This event is open to the public.


The Batavia Career and Technical Education Center is a program of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. The Partnership operates as a Board of Cooperative Educational Services providing shared programs and services to 22 component school districts located in Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and Steuben counties in New York state.

November 2, 2016 - 7:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, Culinary Arts, batavia, news, schools, education, cooking.


Paulie Guglieamo, owner of Guglieamo's Pasta Sauce and a radio personality in Rochester, was the celebrity chef at the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES yesterday.

Guglieamo shared with students how he started his business and talked about some of the challenges and pleasures of starting and owning your own business. He then took the students into the kitchen and showed him how he makes his pasta sauces, which are based on recipes developed by his grandmother during the Great Depression and use garden-fresh ingredients.

He encouraged students to follow their passions as they set themselves on a path toward their eventual careers.

"If you have passion and you truly love it, you can do it," Guglieamo said.

Guglieamo's sauce is now sold in Wegmans, Tops and other retail outlets throughout the northeast. He said he's succeeded because of the passion he has for his product.

"When you actually have something that is an extension of you -- that's my brand, that's me, that's my actual phone number, I put my cell phone number on every jar we sell -- you can't possibly fail," Guglieamo said. "I cannot not sell this jar of sauce. I can't walk into a store and not sell it."

When Guglieamo was first starting his radio career, he was in sales.

"I was very, very, very bad (at sales)," he said.

If a customer offered an objection, he didn't have an answer, but now, selling his own product, he has all the answers.

"I have the answers to everything because this is my life, this is my baby right here," he said.


May 2, 2015 - 12:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, Culinary Arts.

Press release:

Culinary Arts students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center brought home the Culinary Cup for the fourth consecutive year! These students took first place in the ninth Annual Taste of Culinary Competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation of Greater Buffalo. This event was held at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, Niagara Falls.

Chef Nathan Koscielski's culinary team of 17 students consisted of morning and afternoon juniors and seniors. The team competed against student teams from other colleges, high schools and BOCES. During the event, this team prepared and presented their menu to more than 300 attendees in a three-hour time period. Each student needed to be familiar with each dish and be able to answer questions. Mystery judges adjudicated the teams and their menus.

Jonathon Quinn is a first-year Culinary Arts student from Batavia City Schools.

“Chef K. is passionate about our work and he builds our confidence. We were well prepared for this competition because of what he taught us. This was a real-world work experience,” Jonathon said.

Adrian Lambert, a second-year Culinary Arts student from Byron-Bergen, was thrilled to be part of this team for the second year.

“This was a huge accomplishment to win first place for the fourth year in a row. We worked together as a team to learn the skills necessary to be ready for this contest,” Adrian said.

Chef Koscielski is proud of his team not just because this group of students won, but because of the professionalism and enthusiasm these students showed while in the kitchen and at the serving tables at this competition.

“This team is made up of students who have a good attitude, excellent attendance and a work ethic that shows a passion for the culinary arts. This year we won the People’s Choice Award. We were chosen by over 300 people who attended this event as the best overall culinary team,” he said.

The team began their presentation with a roasted poblano gazpacho garnished with farm fresh, hard-boiled duck eggs. The main entrée was guinea hog carnitas served with fresh-made flour tortillas topped with an avocado-lime crème and mango cheese. The meal was served with freshly made iced hibiscus tea.

This menu was prepared with products that were raised by the Animal Science Program at the Batavia CTE. These students raised the guinea hog used in the main dish along with the duck eggs that were used to garnish the gazpacho.

“Culinary Arts students learn to prepare a wide variety of foods throughout the school year, including production animals raised by the Animal Science program. The collaboration between Culinary Arts and Animal Science results in a unique experience for these students as they begin to understand the farm-to-table concept and, thereby, gain respect for mankind's food sources. The end result of this process is better food production, more knowledgeable chefs and food processors, and ultimately, a more healthy choice for the consumer,” said Holly Partridge, Batavia CTE Animal Science instructor.

Jon Sanfratello, principal of the Batavia CTE, noted how this cross-curriculum has provided students with the opportunity to cut through traditional subject matter lines and explore relationships of subjects to one another.

“The collaboration between the Culinary Arts and Animal Science programs has brought the farm-to-table concept into the classroom and kitchen. This partnership has played a major role in the success of our students in making them career and college ready. We are so proud of our students and instructors on their winning streak of four first-place finishes!” Sanfratello said.

Photo: The Batavia CTE Culinary Cup Champions.
First row, from left: Adrian Lambert, Byron-Bergen; Olivia Majors, Batavia; Elisabeth Skillman, Le Roy; Hannah Baumgart, Le Roy; Noah Garcia, Batavia; Maylee Zipfel, Pavilion.

Second row, from left: Alyssa Wilson, Caledonia-Mumford; Emily McVicker, Le Roy.

Third row, from left: Nicholas Shepard, Le Roy; Cameron Kleist, Le Roy; Steven Horn, Caledonia-Mumford; Nicholas Amico, Batavia; Chef Koscielski.

Back row, from left: Jonathon Quinn, Batavia; Jamall O'Neil, Batavia; Conner Gricius, Le Roy; Clinton Nickens, Le Roy; Brandon Jones, Caledonia-Mumford.


December 1, 2014 - 9:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Attica, BOCES, Culinary Arts.

The 18-year-old resident of Attica, Dominic Maksymik, who died Sunday night after his vehicle crossed the center line on Route 98 in Bennington, was a student in Batavia, part of the BOCES Culinary Arts Program.

From the 13WHAM story:

Ask anyone who knew him, Maksymik was a driven young man who had a passion for cooking.

"Like many students who come to BOCES, it gave him a way to express himself," explained Chef Nathan Koscielski, Maksymik's culinary teacher at the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership in Batavia. "Dom just loved cooking that was one of the great things about him. It didn't matter what we were cooking, he was going to be passionate about it. If we were making mashed potatoes, it was going to be the best mashed potatoes he could make."

Maksymik's ambition to be the best chef showed in his work. Koscielski credits Maksymik's abilities to helping their culinary school win the American Culinary Federation Culinary Cup for the last two years. They beat out other BOCES programs and area colleges.

13WHAM is an official news partner of The Batavian.


May 13, 2014 - 2:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, schools, education, Culinary Arts, Chef Nathan Koscielski.

Even without the profanity, celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay is profane. He’s mean even when his soliloquies aren’t bleepin’ tirades.

Some of the students in the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES compare Chef Chef Nathan Koscielski to Gordon Ramsay. Even "Chef K" himself makes the comparison.

“I do yell in the kitchen sometimes,” Koscielski said.

Of course, Chef K never drops f-bombs. No teacher would. But neither is he mean. There are no insults tossed around like pizza dough in Chef K’s kitchen. If he raises his voice, it’s more like a stern version of Hugh Beaumont than a a vein-popping drill sergeant.

Chef Nathan Koscielski's favorite cooking shows

Ramsay — star of such shows as "Hell’s Kitchen" and "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" — has high standards and high expectations, which seems to be the fuse that ignites his expletive-deleted critiques of other chefs and restaurant owners.

Driving home those same points about quality and consistency is also the growl in Chef K’s bark.

“There have got to be standards,” Koscielski said. “Everything has to got be uniform and everything has got to be high quality. It’s got to be done the right way, the perfect way, or it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we’re not going to sell it to a customer.”

The emphasis on the right way over the wrong way is one of the reasons Koscielski has been able to guide his students to three consecutive wins in an annual culinary competition in Buffalo.

The wins in the Taste of Culinary Competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation of Greater Buffalo are impressive. Koscielski high school students have notched their consecutive victories competing against college students who come backed by three, four and even five instructors, while for the BOCES students it’s just them and Chef K. This year, the Batavia contingent even outscored all of the pros from Erie County’s top restaurants and country clubs.

“I’m a member of the American Culinary Federation, I know all the chef instructors at the local colleges; we kind of grew up in the food services industry together, and the fact that I’m there by myself with 15 high school students and we’re beating the faculty and staff of colleges, it’s a great honor,” Koscielski said. “To do it three years in a row means it wasn’t beginner's luck.”

It’s more than just fate that has brought Koscielski to Batavia. It’s a bit more like destiny.

Growing up in Derby, Koscielski said by high school he was well down the path to nowhere, just another ne'er do well in a small rural town.

“My Culinary Arts teacher in high school saved my life,” Koscielski said. “If it wasn’t for that man, his name was Leroy Good — and, again, I was a very troubled student in high school — if it wasn’t for Leroy Good and Culinary Arts I would be living in my parents' basement, be thrown out of my parents' house and in jail or dead. BOCES saved my life, honest to God.”

Or perhaps it wasn’t destiny. Growing up, there was no cooking in Koscielski’s home. At dinner time, his parents would pull out the menus from local restaurants and everybody would decide what to order and dad would go pick it up. After he started taking culinary classes, he was eager to cook for his mom and dad, but found there weren’t even any pots and pans in the kitchen.

“My parents oven is still picture-perfect clean to this day,” Koscielski said. “It’s about 40 years old, but they never use it.”

Despite this handicap, or perhaps because of it, Koscielski became passionate about cooking.

Koscielski holds a degree in Culinary Arts from the the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu and a bachelor’s in Career and Tech Education from SUNY Buffalo. He’s been a sous chef at the Niagara Club and Templeton Landing. He was also a banquet chef at the Buffalo Club.

He started teaching at BOCES 1 in Erie County, but as the low man on the totem pole, when spending cuts came, his was the first job lopped off.

When a long-term substitute teaching position opened in Batavia, Koscielski accepted the job offer.

He was immediately impressed with the school. The kitchen, he said, with its professional stoves and industrial-grade mixers and wide assortment of pots and pans and utensils, is one of the best equipped he’s come across in an educational setting. He’s also been treated very well by the administration, he said.

“One thing that really hit home for me was in my first week of substitute teaching here, I got a knock on my door and it was Dr. Glover, our former superintendent, and he was just introducing himself and said if I ever needed anything let him know,” Koscielski said. “That hit home with me because I worked at Erie 1 BOCES for two years and for two full years of working at Erie 1 BOCES I never met the superintendent once.”

Five years ago, Koscielski was promoted to the full-time, permanent instructor position in Culinary Arts and quickly became a student favorite.

“Chef K is the smartest person I’ve ever known,” said second-year culinary student Bob Zien. “He’s literally a teacher of not only culinary arts, but life skills. The guy is a genius. He’s a genius. It makes me proud to be able to say I was in his class. It’s not often you have a teacher who is as smart and as caring about his students as Chef K is.”

Gina Muroff, also a second-year student and this year’s class president, said she was both surprised and impressed her first day of class with Koscielski.

“That first day of class you come in and you think, ‘ok, I’m going to learn about culinary, but on that first day, everything he taught was about life,” Muroff said. “He said nothing about culinary. He talked about, what do you want to do when you get out of here, how are you going to succeed? He showed us that you need to have motivation to pursue your own dreams, whether it’s going to be in culinary or not.”

Chef K talks a lot with his students about passion — passion for cooking, but more, passion for doing your best in every aspect of life, and by all accounts Koscielski is a zealous mentor.

“Any program starts with the teacher,” said Batavia BOCES Principal Jon Sanfratello. “He’s passionate about what he does. What attracts kids to his program is his passion and his drive.”

Chef K’s passion is one of the great lessons former student Peter Boylan said he got from his two years in BOCES Culinary Arts Program. Boylan is now at the American Culinary Federation.

“I learned you don’t get into this industry for the money,” Boylan said. “You really have to care about what you’re doing. I may have to start off as a dishwasher and work my way up to a line cook or a sous chef and so on before I become a chef, but I think it’s worth it.”

“I’ve wanted to be a chef since kindergarten,” Boylan added. “I never did anything about it until Chef K introduced me to all the aspects of cooking. That’s when I definitely fell in love with the industry. He showed me it’s not always going to be fun, but it’s worth it. I would say I found a much larger passion for the industry because of him.”

From life lessons, Chef K’s class moves to safety and sanitation. That’s four weeks of intense lessons on foodborne pathogens, food storage, cooking temperatures, cuts, burns and slips and falls. Next, students learn how to make breads and pastries, which overlaps with instruction on overall culinary skills.

The fun kicks up a notch with the lessons on knife skills as students learn how to chop, slice and dice. Knife skills segues nicely into soups, broths and stews.

“Soups are a good way to learn about culinary arts because you have knife skills with cutting vegetables, and you have to understand the cooking of the stock or the broth of the soup,” Koscielski said. “If you’re making cream soups, then you go into the realm of thickening agents, white rue, cornstarch slurry and stuff like that. So soups are a really good devise to squeeze in a lot of culinary education into one unit.”

After soups, students move into grilling, roasting and frying, and, of course, desserts.

As the lessons coalesce, Chef K opens the annual teacher’s cafe. For 25 weeks, teachers need not pack their own lunches or take a quick run to the deli during their afternoon break. They can saunter into the department’s dinning room for a buffet of brimming with culinary variety.

As winter melts into spring, it’s time for the entire student body of BOCES to get a chance to sample the cooking of their peers. The student dining experience moves beyond self-serve dishing at a buffet, as students learn about food service — taking orders, delivering dishes and ringing up sales.

In the kitchen, the aspiring chefs flip burgers, fry fries and drop pancakes — or whatever else is on the menu that day — and to get all the hot food plated up at the right time takes teamwork. The cooks must coordinate and communicate. There might be some Chef K yelling involved.

“The more this team works together, just like a basketball team, the better they’re able to understand where each other is going to be on the kitchen floor or the court,” Koscielski said. “Once they understand not only how they work themselves but how each other works, then you have a kitchen that is a well-oiled machine. “

It’s all about establishing good habits, Koscielski said.

“There’s a famous line by a famous teacher, Harry Wong, that procedures will become routine, and I base my teaching philosophy of that,” Koscielski said. “You set up a lot of procedures at the beginning of the school year or the beginning of the lesson and after a while those procedures become routine for the students. Once those become routine you have a good educational environment for the students.”

During one cafe day, when a student brought over an ice cream sundae intended for a customer, Chef K told him flat out he got it wrong. There was chocolate on the edge of the plate. The cherry juice was dripping down the whipped cream. The brownie wasn’t in the center of the plate. It wasn’t made right, so it was wrong.

But Chef K didn’t yell. He sent the student back to the dessert table and made him do it over. The yelling commenced when the student returned.

“That’s a thousand times better,” Koscielski bellowed, his voice ringing off the stainless steal hoods. “It’s a thousand times better. A thousand times better.”

Talking about the incident later, Koscielski said it’s important to emphasize standards with each and every dish that might leave the kitchen.

“Once the student understood how to properly plate the item up, it was thousand times better,” Koscielski said.

Lesson learned.

Muroff said the fact that Chef K has such high standards shows that he cares about the future of his students. He knows what real life is like and he wants them to be ready for the what the work world is like.

“He’s definately the best teacher I’ve ever met because as I said, he cares about our future,” said the Oakfield-Alabama student who plans to pursue two years of study as a pastry chef before enrolling in a four-year culinary college. “He knows that if he doesn’t show the kids how to succeed in their future, then they don’t know what they’ll be doing when they graduate. He teaches us everything that we’ll need in our future.”

Boylan thinks Chef K is harder on the students who are serious about culinary as a career. Once Chef K learns you aspire to double-breasted jackets, jaunty scarves and toques, he’s going to lean on you, call on you to learn every day and do your best to be the best.

That challenge to mastery has proven a big advantage, Boylan said, as he’s advanced in his studies.

“I’m on the hot food team in college now,” Boylan said. “I think without him pushing me the way he did in class I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be where I am now.”

Culinary arts isn’t just about cooking. Students can also earn math and science credits, and next year they can also earn English credits. One way or another cooking involves math, science, reading and writing, and Koscielski said students will often take a lot more interest in those subjects when they’re tied to a topic they care about.

“They’re more willing to do the homework,” Koscielski said. “They’re not necessarily interested in their English class at their home school, but when we take that English credit and we make them read cookbooks and do homework assignments off of cookbooks they’re more engaged.”

Television also plays a part in Koscielski’s lesson plans. Chef Ramsay, or his shows, is a frequent topic of discussion during class time. Students will be instructed to watch a particular show — one of Koscielski’s favorites for teaching is Iron Chef — and then dissect the show the next day.

“One of the greatest tools I have right now is the Food Network,” Koscielski said. “Students turn on the TV and they have an entire channel dedicated to cooking. The sounds, the lights, it gets them interested, it gets them going. I find the Food Network has helped my enrollment dramatically throughout the years.”

When it comes time to pick the students who will be on the culinary competition team, Koscielski has put his class through months of intense training, held them to high standards and instilled in them a pride for their work. These high school students come into the competition with the respect of the college kids they hope to beat, said Boylan, who has been both on Chef K’s teams and competed against him as a college student.

The college kids don’t feel shown up when they get beaten by Batavia BOCES students.

“We all understand that chef is giving those high school students a different level of learning,” Boylan said. “He really does give a college-level education. It really doesn’t make too much difference that they’re BOCES students. The material he gives them is what you would be learning in your first year of college.”

Sometimes, though, even college students never learn the biggest life lesson of all, the one Chef K will pound on a stainless steel table to emphasize if he must. The lesson is perhaps the most common thread between Chef K and Chef Ramsay and anyone who aspires to master a craft: You’ve got to care.

“It’s not about grade-point average,” Koscielski said. “It’s about passion. It’s about having heart. It’s having good attendance. It’s being professional. That’s what makes a good student.”

And a good chef.

Facts about BOCES Culinary Arts

A career in a kitchen is a good choice, said Chef Nathan Koscielski, because “everybody loves to eat.”

Until scientists learn how to create Star Trek-like food replicators, the world will need cooks.

It’s also a career a young person can enter without necessarily taking on a lot of student debt.

Jobs that could be available to BOCES graduates right out of high school include:

  • Baker’s Assistant
  • Breakfast Cook
  • Chef’s Assistant
  • Dietary Aide
  • Health-care Cook
  • Pantry Worker
  • Line Cook
  • Waiter/Waitress

The BOCES brochure lists the following jobs and potential salaries in the culinary profession:

  • Pastry Chef: $35,000 and up
  • Banquet Chef: $40,000 and up
  • Sous Chef: $40,000 and up
  • Banquet Manager: $50,000 and up
  • Maitre d’: $50,000 and up
  • Executive Chef: $70,000 and up
  • Food and Beverage Director: $75,000 and up
  • General Manager: $80,000 and up

Some of these jobs, at least to reach the upper levels of the pay scale, will require post-secondary education. Culinary schools in the region that have accepted BOCES students include:

  • Johnson and Wales
  • Culinary Institute of America
  • Paul Smith’s College
  • Niagara Community College
  • Erie Community College
  • Le Cordon Bleu

Notable local graduates of the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES:

  • Bill Cultrara, head chef at the Genesee County Jail, former owner of Delavan’s; education included Sullivan County Community College in Catskills and apprenticeships at the Greenbrier Restor in West Virginia and the Palace Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland.
  • Hassan Silmi, executive chef at Alex’s Place; education includes GCC and Alfred State.

So far, none of Chef K’s students have become an executive chef or restaurant owner, but he said, “I’m sure someday there will be.”

May 13, 2014 - 2:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BOCES, agriculture, schools, education, Culinary Arts.

In Chef K's kitchen, if it's not right, it's wrong

Even without the profanity, celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay is profane. He’s mean even when his soliloquies aren’t bleepin’ tirades.

Some of the students in the Culinary Arts program at BOCES compare Chef Nathan Koscielski to Gordon Ramsay. Even "Chef K" himself makes the comparison.

“I do yell in the kitchen sometimes,” Koscielski said.

Of course, Chef K never drops f-bombs. No teacher would. But neither is he mean. There are no insults tossed around like pizza dough in Chef K’s kitchen. If he raises his voice, it’s more like a stern version of Hugh Beaumont than a vein-popping drill sergeant.

Ramsay — star of such shows as "Hell’s Kitchen" and "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" — has high standards and high expectations, which seems to be the fuse that ignites his expletive-deleted critiques of other chefs and restaurant owners.

Driving home those same points about quality and consistency is also the growl in Chef K’s bark.

“There have got to be standards,” Koscielski said. “Everything has got to be uniform and everything has got to be high quality. It’s got to be done the right way, the perfect way, or it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we’re not going to sell it to a customer.”

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Oh, that smell. That whiff of manure spread on a farmfield. The odor of animal waste in a barn filled with holsteins or jerseys. The stench of a pigsty.

The first time Chef Nathan Koscielski brought a group of his Culinary Arts students into the animal science department at BOCES, their instant response was to pinch noses firmly between thumbs and forefingers. "Oh, that smell."

Animal Science instructor Holly Partridge remembers it well.

“They walked in and said, ‘oh, this is gross. What a disgusting stink,’ ” Partridge said. “Chef turned to them and said, ‘that is the smell of money, because without that smell, you don’t have anything to sell. You don’t have anything to cook. You don’t have a restaurant.’ ”

That visit came near the start of what has turned into a fertile partnership between Koscielski and Partridge, one that is perhaps unique in culinary education circles.

“We had a documentary film producer come in to show us his film ‘American Meat’ and he said visited 150 FFA (Future Farmers of America) programs and he saw what we were doing and said he had seen nothing like it,” Partridge said.

For the past three years, the animal science program has been producing the meat used in the meals prepared by the Culinary Arts students — chicken, eggs, lamb, pork and guinea hens. The partnership has helped the BOCES culinary program produce a three-peat in the Taste of Culinary Competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation of Greater Buffalo, but it’s also produced a new recipe for educating high school students about the source of their meals.

“If you ask my students at the beginning of the year where food comes from, they say it comes from the grocery store,” Partridge said. “Where’s your eggs come from? It comes from the grocery store? Where’s your milk come from? It comes from the grocery store. That’s the mindset that Americans tend to have now because we’re so far removed from production.”

Both Partridge and Koscielski said that by bringing the two programs closer together, they’re teaching future cooks to respect the ingredients that go into their recipes and teaching future farmers about quality ingredients. The farmers learn about how to raise animals properly and the cooks learn to reuse waste in a way that is better for the planet.

“I make every student hold a little chick that was just hatched in their hands and tell them that in 16 weeks, that chicken is going to be on your cutting board,” Kosciekski said. “I don’t do that to be mean. I do that to teach them respect for the ingredients. When you’re holding a living animal and you know in 16 weeks, that’s going to be on your cutting board and you’re going to cook it, well, I can’t teach that through a textbook. There’s no better way to teach them to respect the animals.”

Carrot tops, loose cabbage leafs, potato skins and the other scraps of cooking that come out of Chef K’s kitchen go into a red bucket and are rolled down to the animal science department to feed pigs, lamb and chickens.

“When they wheel it down, they wheel it down knowing it will feed animals that they will eventually use in their class,” Partridge said.

It’s a long walk down hallways with tile on the walls and past many, many classrooms to get from the cooking class to the animal class. There’s a right turn, a left, a right and a left again. A walker might be tempted to leave breadcrumbs the first time on the trail, but it is a two-way path. Students from both classes will visit each other during the course of a school year as eggs hatch, grow into chickens, are sent off to a meat processing house and finally return to Chef K’s kitchen so they can fulfill their culinary destiny.

When chicks grow into chickens, the culinary students weave through those hallways to pay a final visit to the birds that will soon provide broth for their noodle soups or thighs for their cacciatores.

“They get to feel what a live bird feels like; to feel what the breast of a live bird feels like; to feel the weight of a live bird; to feel its breathing and its warmth,” Partridge said.

Poultry is slaughtered off campus by professionals. The plucked and dressed birds are returned to BOCES frozen and ready for whatever recipe Chef K might be cooking up for his students to learn. The Animal Science students are then invited into the kitchen to see how a bird is broken down for meal preparation.

“I don’t know of a college that is doing what we’re doing here with the integration of the farm,” Koscielski said. “That’s one of the reasons I work here, because I can’t get this anywhere else. Being able to work with my farmer on a daily basis, I don’t get that anywhere else.”

Two years ago, BOCES hosted members from throughout WNY of the American Culinary Federation. The main course: chicken. The cooks: students. The guest speaker: Holly Partridge. The federation members learned about the breed of bird and how it was raised and then got a taste of what Partridge preached.

“They were blown away,” Partridge said. “I showed them the difference between a commercial chicken, which is a very different breed of bird, and the chickens we produced. They were amazed at the difference in flavor because of how they were raised and the breed of the animal.”

The animals raised by Animal Science are farm fresh, which makes for a better meal, but they’re also organic, which Koscielski said not only means a richer flavor, but also a farming process that is healthier for the environment.

Books such as "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "Food Inc." and "King Corn" are required reading in Koscielski’s class, he said.

“We want students to learn about organic, healthy food that leaves a small footprint on the environment,” Koscielski said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about.”

The partnership is only going to expand in the coming years, both Koscielski and Partridge said.

By next year, Animal Science will have an expanded hen house, producing more eggs — enough eggs to stock Koscielski kitchen for the entire school year. With 100 percent of the culinary program’s eggs grown on campus, BOCES will save money on egg purchases.

Partridge and Koscielski are also hatching a plan to sell duck eggs along with breads and pastries at a local farmers market this fall.

Partridge said duck eggs have a leavening agent that consumers will crave once they taste and see better breads and pastries. Dough rises better with duck eggs and the flavor is richer. When Partridge asked Koscielski if he would make some sample products to give away to help sell the eggs, Koscielski said he would go a step better, baking bread and rolling pastries to sell along with the eggs.

“The goal is to not only promote the Animal Science Program, but also give kids an opportunity to run a business venture,” Partridge said.

The plan will need approval of the BOCES board.

Animal Science students spend a lot of time with the pigs, lambs, ducks and chickens they raise. They hold them, feed them, shepherd them and learn their traits and personalities. Learning to read an animal is an important skill to develop, Partridge said. They’re easier to herd when you can predict their next move and you can avoid trouble if you understand their moods.

Students also help care for the dogs of BOCES faculty and students. There are lessons, too, in canine socialization, grooming, feeding and walking.

Rather than a contradiction between mixing household pets with animals raised purely to provide sustenance, Partridge said students learn valuable lessons about farming and the humane treatment of livestock.

“They understand that if you want to eat meat, you’re going to raise the animal humanely, but you’re not going to raise them like your dogs,” Partridge said. “You’re going to raise them in an environment that is economical and humane for that animal. The needs of a pig are different than the needs of your dog. The needs of a chicken are different than the needs of your canary. They understand that food comes from an agriculture process. It comes from driving down the road and watching that manure spread on the field and understanding it’s not just there to make your life miserable because it smells. It’s a byproduct of what we’re doing so you can eat.”

It’s a lesson that doesn’t take long for students to learn, Partridge said.

“The kids have really gotten over that, ‘oh, I don’t want to eat that pig, it’s so cute,’ to ‘we are raising a quality product for a reason,’ ” Partridge said. “I’m not getting kids coming in crying that that little pig is going to get killed for somebody to eat. I’m getting kids with the understanding that production animals that we raise, we handle different than the companion animals that we raise.”

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