Little critics visit college

Aquebogue third-grader Morgan Card-Gimpelman gets autographs from student chefs Tess Lagatolla and Mark Denmark Monday after a cooking demonstration at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center.

Aquebogue Elementary School third-grader Kayla Kielbasa took one bite of chocolate mousse and gave it a big thumbs up.

“It’s creamy, very chocolaty and sweet,” said Kayla, trying to use as many adjectives as possible to describe the dessert.

Kayla and her classmates visited the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program in Riverhead Monday to taste chicken Francaise and ginger carrot salad, recipes created by celebrity chefs Tyler Florence and Rachael Ray. Each student was then instructed to write a review of the experience. The kids also were able to watch as two student chefs demonstrated the arts of sauteing, whipping and dicing as they prepared the three-course lunch.

Third-grade teacher Deb Smidt said she and the other teachers planned the field trip as the culmination of a unit on writing reviews, which she said helps the students learn persuasive writing and prepares them for fourth grade.

“Instead of just thinking of a restaurant experience, it’s something they experience first-hand,” Ms. Smidt said.

The culinary school on East Main Street does not usually open its doors to elementary schools for class trips, but James Fogarty, the school’s community liaison, said they arranged this one as a professional courtesy to the local school. The culinary school frequently receives visits from high school students interested in a culinary career, he said.

But that’s not to say Monday’s field trip won’t inspire some of the younger students to don a toque and double-breasted white jacket in the future.

Culinary student Tess Lagatolla, who led Monday’s demonstration, noted that a similar field trip when she was in third grade was the reason she chose cooking as a career.

“I was counter height,” she recalled of her visit nearly 15 years ago. “It was very cool to see [the children] today.”

The students were so impressed with Ms. Lagatolla and her cooking partner, Matt Denmark, that many stopped for an autograph on the way out.

Some of the kids were a little more cautious of tasting what for them, was exotic cuisine.

Before tasting the chocolate mousse, third-grader David Yacono just wanted to make sure of one thing. “Is it made with real moose?” he asked. When he was assured that the treat was meat-free, David added he was just trying to get a laugh out of his classmates. “By the way, I knew that,” he said.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.