Artistic Expression

ASHVILLE – Students at 10 Western New York Schools recently tuned in to a Distance Learning event which gave them the opportunity to take a lesson from two world-renowned chefs.

Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES and the Culinary Institute of America in conjunction with the New York State Distance Learning Consortium hosted free, educational and interactive master classes with Chef Paul Jean Prosperi and Chef Fritz Sonnenschmidt on Thursday and Friday.

The program, entitled “Teaching with the CIA: Out of Africa,” was held at the E2CCB Hewes Educational Center in Ashville. Thursday’s portion of the class featured Prosperi, an internationally renowned pastry chef, who gave the students a demonstration on how to prepare French chocolate meringue with diplomatic cream.

According to Prosperi, he has a great love for pastry making and baking, especially because it’s a mixture of chemistry and art.

“I’ve been doing pastry all my life – the reason being that it’s not boring, it’s an art,” Prosperi said. “If you have a patience for the art, you’ll be a great pastry chef because you can show your art in many ways – you’re always doing something different.”

In addition to the demonstration, Prosperi also discussed various terms with students, gave tips and advice as well as holding a question and answer session.

“I hope these students think about joining the CIA to continue learning,” Prosperi said. “Also, that I was able to give them an introduction to the world of pastry – if they can do what I did today then I’d be very happy. I really enjoy coming here because I like the snow, and the students are very passionate – they want to learn. I’m looking forward to coming back again next year.”

Serving as sous-chef assistants for Prosperi’s demonstration were seniors Amber Middleton and Lloyd Inglesby.

“I love this program because it gets into the details of both culinary and baking,” Middleton said. “Having the chefs come really inspires us further to want to get into the program to pursue our dreams of being like them.”

“When I first came to this class I wasn’t really expecting anything because everyone thought it would be a blow-off, but Russell (Furdell), our teacher – he taught me a lot,” Inglesby added. “And, the CIA program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with such great chefs – you could just see yourself standing there someday too.”

On Friday, Sonnenschmidt, certified master chef and former Culinary Institute of America culinary dean, held the second portion of the class. The portion featured the preparation of medallion of mock antelope, a recipe from Cameroon, Africa, West African tomato sauce, from Nigeria, and herbal cous cous, from North Africa.

Following the demonstrations, Christopher Costa, admissions counselor for Culinary Institute of America, gave students information on how to go about applying for the school.

“My main role is to assist students through the admissions process, and also act as a liaison between admissions and financial aid,” Costa said. “This is an opportunity for the students to experience what we have to offer.”

Russell Furdell, E2CCB culinary arts instructor, loves having the chefs come down because of how the students get to interact with true professionals, he said.

“It’s great experience for the students to rub elbows with them and work with them,” Furdell said. “I’ve always found the event inspiring, and I think they do too.”

According to Larry Lopez, director of National Student Organization and international programs for Culinary Institute of America, one of the main purposes of the program is to help students understand what a profession in the culinary arts is about.

“If we can ignite passion for this profession – then we have done our job,” Lopez said. “BOCES has a focus on helping students find a career choice within specific trades and professions. And, the mission we have at CIA coincides with BOCES because what we want to do is to take the experience at BOCES and take it to the next level of higher education – it’s a natural marriage.”

Suzette Benson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at E2CCB, believes its a huge boon to the students of BOCES to be able to bring such talented chefs to a small town in Western New York.

“Every year I realize just how much they have to offer our students – we learn something new every time” Benson said. “While the chefs are demonstrating you can hear a pindrop because the students are enthralled with these gentlemen and the prospect of attending the Culinary Institute of America. To be able to have the students see them, hear them and watch what they do has been an amazing opportunity and opens doors.”

For more information about the E2CCB culinary arts program contact Furdell at 763-1801, ext. 3107 or visit