In September 2015, Nicole McDonnell will join Eastern Center for Arts and Technology (EASTERN) as the new Culinary Arts Aide. She is a 2007 graduate of EASTERN’s Culinary Arts program and Upper Moreland High School. McDonnell found out about this position through her role on the Culinary Arts Occupational Advisory Committee (OAC) at EASTERN and she plays an active role in volunteering for events associated with the school. McDonnell brings a great deal of culinary experience to EASTERN, including an internship in Ireland, a managerial position at the Cheesecake Factory, and demonstrations at the Reading Terminal Market.
She became interested in the culinary field at a young age. She and her aunt would prepare holiday meals for over 30 people. McDonnell said, “Through those experiences, I learned the important role that food can play in people’s lives. Preparing food can create memories and from that moment on I created my own style of making people happy through food.” She decided to attend EASTERN to learn the basic skills needed to run her own kitchen. After graduation, she studied abroad in Ireland. Throughout her internship, she was able to showcase the skills she received at EASTERN through preparation, sauce making, and menu development. To this day, she still has two signature dishes on the menu at the Pantry Café in Nenagh, Ireland.
As EASTERN’s new Culinary Arts Aide, McDonnell said, “I am excited to work with SkillsUSA and share my experiences through technique classes and recipe development.”
In the future, she plans to mentor students and teach them to pursue their passion. Her mentor, Chef Grainne, influenced her in many ways, and she attributes a lot of her success to her. She hopes to influence students the way her mentor influenced her.
If she could offer some advice for incoming Culinary Arts students, she would tell them to, “take as many opportunities as you can get and do not be afraid to take chances. You are your greatest resource when you enter the culinary world.”
Culinary Arts at EASTERN enables students to acquire a variety of skills including soup and sauce preparation, preparation of meat, fish and poultry entrees, baking, kitchen sanitation, purchasing, and inventory controls.