Ohio kids get culinary training from Cuyahoga Community College students

by Jocelyn Tolbert

Confidence, courtesy and respect served as the main ingredients in cooking lessons that children in The First Tee of Cleveland program took through Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).

Pat LoPresti, executive director of The First Tee of Cleveland, a character development program that uses the game of golf and other activities to teach youth life and leadership skills, says the partnership with the College’s Hospitality Management program aligned perfectly with the organization’s mission. “It doesn’t matter if a participant has a whisk or a seven-iron in their hand to learn how to work together, respect others, create goals and make their own personal par in everything they do,” LoPresti says.

Over the eight-week program, the students learned the 12 recipes that covered the basics of cooking from some of The First Tee’s staff and Tri-C culinary students. They got to sit in on classes, check out the college’s kitchen and learn about the restaurant industry.

“Some students came for a day to watch the chefs’ classes go on. We ran them through a couple different stations, too,” says Chef Tom Capretta, Tri-C assistant professor. “It was interesting — some of them brought back mise en place to getting ready for school. It blew me away.”

Capretta (pictured above) directed the project and involved culinary students including Susan Barlow and Chantel Burse, who worked with the children, who range in age from eight to 14 years. The lessons culminated in dishes served at The Taste of the Tee fundraising dinner held in April at Tri-C’s Café 4250 at Eastern Campus in Highland Hills.

“[The kids prepared] healthy, easy items: Spicy meatballs made with turkey and Latin spices, avocado fries with sriracha aioli, lasagna cupcakes and mutabbaq, similar to baklava,” Capretta says. “With avocado fries, it gets them going through the breading process and it’s something different and healthy for you.”

The First Tee of Cleveland recognized the efforts of Barlow and Burse with $500 scholarships from the August LoPresti Fund. The fund honoring Pat LoPresti’s late father rewards students who make a difference in the lives of others.

“Both Sue and Chantel represent my father’s philosophy to always give more than anyone would expect,” LoPresti says. “They exceeded our expectations and really helped demonstrate core values and professionalism in every class.”

Burse graduates from Tri-C this month with an Associate of Applied Business degree in Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts. She will also earn certificates as a professional baker and personal chef, Barlow expects to graduate by 2020.