RCC’s Fall Food Enthusiasts Classes Now Under Way

Rockland Community College Hospitality & Culinary Arts Center: Fun for Foodies, Service to the Community, Education for a New Workforce

Rockland Community College (RCC) Hospitality & Culinary Arts Center is all about the power of the food industry as a major employer, magnet for creativity and, potentially, a driver of positive community change.  

Education for a new generation of workers is the Center’s bread and butter. RCC’s academic program puts students on a fast track to employment in culinary arts, restaurant management, hotel management, travel and tourism. 

Fun for foodies is also on the menu. Taking advantage of RCC’s state-of-the art teaching kitchen in Nyack, the Center offers a series of creative cooking classes for home chefs and food enthusiasts.

Service to the community is another staple offering. The Center provides free classes to food-insecure individuals and families, focusing on purchasing and preparing nutritious food economically. Orange and Rockland Utilities makes this free program possible. 

FUN… For food enthusiasts – classes now under way!

Classes for food enthusiasts are now under way and continue through early December. See schedule below. Classes are held in RCC’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchen located at 70 Main Street in Nyack. 

The $70 fee covers all food, equipment and supplies—including snacks when participants arrive for class. Teams of two at each of 10 cooking stations prepare the class recipes after instructors conduct demonstrations. Instructors are on hand to assist throughout the class. All attendees eat or take home what they make for each recipe.

All adult members of the community — beginners or experienced — are invited.. Learn about the instructors in the Who’s in the Kitchen section below. 

The word is out… so sign up soon! The popular Enthusiast program has been recognized as “Best Cooking Class” in Hudson Valley magazine’s 2022 Best of Hudson Valley competition. Chef’s Pencil, an international food magazine, ranked RCC’s Culinary Arts program in their top 10 programs in New York.

What’s cookin’

The enthusiasts program kicked off in mid-September with an “OctoberFest” theme. The menu included spaetzle, pork schnitzel, creamed spinach and apple strudel in filo with cinnamon sugar whipped cream. But don’t worry if you missed it! Plenty more to learn and delicious RCC Food Enthusiast Class - Oktoberfestmenus to come:

Vegan Baking

Thursday, November 17 | 6:30 – 9:30 pm

It’s vegan cookie night! Learn to make vegan and gluten-free peanut butter cookies, vegan and gluten-free coconut oatmeal cookies and vegan chocolate chip cookie cake. All recipes are purely vegan, with no animal products, such as eggs or cow’s milk.

Sushi for Beginners

Thursday, December 1 | 6:30 – 9:30 pm

In this introduction workshop students will learn about the different varieties of sushi, discuss ingredients necessary to create your own sushi at home for family and friends, as well as to prepare and assemble different types of sushi rolls.

Easy & Elegant Holiday Entertaining

Thursday, December 8 | 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Chef Steve Brunner will teach students how to prepare and present beautiful cheese-centric appetizers including baked brie in puff pastry, a “Noshing Nacho Table”, charcuterie boards, focaccia parmesan crisps, and mac & cheese cocktails.

For general information, visit rccculinarycenter.com. For questions, contact the Nyack Hospitality and Culinary Art Center’s director, Mark Davidoff at 845-875-7571 or mark.davidoff@sunyrockland.edu

Fully baked…with more to come!

Enthusiasts have been creating a tempting array of special dishes since early October, and have learned some critical cooking skills along the way. See descriptions below. No worries if you missed anything. The Enthusiasts program is here to stay. So keep your oven warm for the next set of classes coming up soon!

Pan Frying and Sautéing

In this workshop, students learned proper techniques for pan frying and sautéing chicken, pork, fish fillets, and seasonal vegetables in addition to how to use de-glazing to prepare quick and easy pan sauces such as madeira, marsala, francaise and picatta.

Stocks, Soups and Sauces

Students left this class with the cooking and knife skills needed to prepare a variety of professional quality stocks, soups and sauces. Roasted vegetable and chicken stocks as well as bechamel and velouté sauces were prepared. On the soup front, students dished out (or, more like bowled out) cream of broccoli and cheddar, spinach egg drop, and homestyle chicken w/ bavarian pancake noodles.

Holiday Comfort Food That’s Good for You

In this class, students learned how to replicate some of Chef Billy Strynkowski’s favorite festive side dishes that are not only perfect for the holidays, but also more health-conscious than your typical winter-themed foods.

WHO’S IN THE KITCHEN: Enthusiasts learn from top chefs

Chef Steven Brunner

Pan Frying and SautéingRCC Chef Steven Brunner
Stocks, Soups and Sauces
Holiday Entertaining

Chef Brunner is a retired New York City firefighter and former executive chef at Flik International, executive chef and purchasing manager at the Rainforest Cafe in Nyack and executive chef at the Pleasantville Country Club. He has won the Daily News Manhattan borough Iron Skillet Competition and the Daily News 5-Alarm Cook-Off,and has appeared as a Firefighter Chef on TV with Rachel Ray and Katie Couric.

Chef Brunner has served as a culinary instructor at the Culinary Tech Center in White Plains, NY and is currently lead instructor/ ice hockey coach for the New York Rangers’ Junior Rangers youth hockey developmental program.

Larisa Schukle

Vegan Baking

RCC Chef Larisa SchukleLarisa is the owner of Glitter Thicket, a vegan cafe located at 88 Burd Street in Nyack. A professional chef and baker specializing in vegan foods, Larisa makes custom desserts and cakes to order, and creates simple plant-based snacks at her shop.

Before launching her cooking endeavors, Larisa worked for non-profit organizations giving educational lectures about the benefits of plant-based diets for personal health, the health of animal populations, and the health of the planet.

Larisa’s view is that vegan foods are significantly more environment-friendly — an important alternative to the resource-intensive, pollution-producing animal agriculture industry. Vegan food options also help people avoid health issues such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, while reducing the suffering of farm animals. Larisa comments, “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share recipes that both protect the environment and promote personal health.”

Billy Strynkowski

Holiday Comfort Food That’s Good for You

Chef Billy Strynkowski, formerly Executive Chef for Cooking Light Magazine, is currently Director of Wellness for Restaurant Associates (RA). His primary role is to lead RA’s RCC Chef Billy Strynkowskiculinary team in expanding their wellness platform ─ creating innovative menus for fitness and healthy lifestyles throughout RA and its parent company, Compass Group.   

One of Chef Billy’s most influential wellness platforms is oversight of the Player’s Lounge at the US Tennis Open run by RA and sister company Levy Restaurants. Billy’s great tasting, good-for-you food, as well as his charm, made texting with tennis greats such as Serena Williams a daily staple during this year’s tournament.

In his prior role at Cooking Light, Chef Billy was a regular guest on CNN, and has appeared on dozens of other TV shows including ABC’s The View and CBS’s Good Morning America. In an earlier position at RA, he worked for Goldman Sachs and Time Inc., and for Tropica Restaurant as the Executive Sous Chef at the MetLife Building in New York City.   

Chef Billy creates and hosts a monthly wellness video series, providing cooking tips for the home chef along with wellness recipes that capture cuisines spanning the globe — featuring a different country every month. Chef Billy knows first-hand about cooking light and getting fit. He has recently lost 60 pounds.

Chef Donald Eagle

Sushi for Beginners

Chef Donald Eagle has worked in the food service industry since the age of 16 ─ always RCC Chef Don Eaglewith one ambition: to become an executive chef. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1976, he took on a formal apprenticeship and worked for three years under a master chef from Italy. He went on to earn a Certified Executive Chef designation from the American Culinary Federation and spent the next 42 years in a la carte and corporate dining.

Chef Eagle currently serves on the RCC faculty, teaching the beverage management and purchasing and marketing classes. He also assists in hands-on kitchen classes at the Center’s facility in Nyack.

When asked to name the most rewarding thing about teaching at RCC, Chef Eagle says, “Giving back is the most important thing for me – sharing my life experiences in the industry with students.” His advice to students who are considering culinary arts and hospitality as a career: “Be passionate and focused. It’s so important to enjoy what you do.”

SERVICE… Supporting Community: Purchasing and Preparing Nutritious Food Economically

This program offers a series of 8 nutrition and cooking lessons to individuals and families who need assistance with food and nutritional security. The program is completely free of charge, is made possible by Orange and Rockland Utilities, and is supported by RCC.

Classes are held on Mondays from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, and will run from September 19 through November 28. There will be no classes on September 26 (Rosh Hashanah), October 10 (Columbus Day), or October 31 (Halloween).

Expert instructors help participants build the skills and confidence they need to prepare nutritious food on a budget. Participants learn about nutrition and gain hands-on experience preparing recipes they can take home to their families. 

Classes are conducted in RCC’s state-of the-art teaching kitchen, which includes 10 work stations and a teaching station equipped with audio and video technology, allowing students to easily hear and see all steps needed for each lesson. A Spanish translator will assist as needed in each class. RCC’s Hospitality & Culinary Arts students will also assist. 

Participants will receive folders to store recipes, pens and paper, as well as reusable bags and food storage containers to take away food prepared in class. In each class, participants will make 3 to 4 recipes, each yielding 4 to 6 portions, for a total of 12 to 20 portions to take home. 

Please contact Mark Davidoff at mark.davidoff@sunyrockland.edu for information.


WHO’S IN THE KITCHEN: Purchasing and Preparing Nutritious Food Economically

Mark Davidoff 

Mark Davidoff is Director of RCC’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Center. His experience with food insecurity began when he was vice president of World Yacht (an event-based luxury cruise provider) and working with Share Our Strength in New York City. World Yacht hosted Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation NYC for four years, and during those years raised $1 million for hunger relief.

Also with Share Our Strength, Mark helped prepare and provide breakfasts to children attending schools in disadvantaged communities in East New York.

During his time with Share Our Strength, Mark’s views on food insecurity broadened. While providing basic sustenance is important, teaching people how to purchase and prepare healthy food is equally important. Building on that vision, Mark launched Purchasing and Preparing Nutritious Food Economically in the spring of 2021 — a new program hosted at the Culinary Arts Center’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchen in Nyack. 

The program was made possible by underwriting from Orange and Rockland Utilities, along with support from RCC, Shop Rite, and Flik International. Orange and Rockland continues in 2022 as the lead benefactor. 

“Programs aimed at remediating food insecurity and hunger have traditionally focused on making sure people have ‘enough’ to eat,” says Mark. “But enough is not really enough if people are ill-equipped to manage on their own — choosing the right foods, preparinghealthy meals, and managing an affordable food budget. Our program gives people the skills they need to sustain themselves and their families for the long term.” 


Kathy Schwarz 

RCC Chef Kathy SchwarzKathy Schwarz has spent a lifetime teaching people around the world how to choose and prepare healthy food. She currently teaches at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY and Lehman College in the Bronx, NY on food policy, food security and nutrition. 

For the past decade, Kathy has developed and delivered workshops for adults and teens on topics in sustainable living. She is a published author and frequent public speaker on climate change, agricultural policy, and eating for personal health and the health of the planet. 

Kathy’s experience includes positions as an educator, program director, nutrition counselor and health advocate with local organizations — Rockland’s Learning Collaborative, Cornell Cooperative Extension and county Department of Health. She has also worked for institutions in New York City, including The Coalition for the Homeless; City Harvest; Pathways to Housing; National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations, and Cancer Institute of Brooklyn. 

Kathy’s experience also includes two years as a clinical nutritionist, patient counselor and fundraiser at Zomba Central Hospital, Zomba, Malawi, Africa. 

EDUCATION…for a New Workforce

The food and hospitality industries have traditionally offered rich opportunities for innovation, creativity and employment. That trend continues with burgeoning growth in mid-Hudson Valley restaurants, hotels, agro-tourism, artisanal foods, craft beverages and related businesses. 

Demand for restauranteurs, managers, chefs, servers, hoteliers, and related professionals couldn’t be higher. And with the industry evolving in new directions, a fertile field awaits the next generation of creative culinary arts and hospitality professionals. 

RCC’s purpose-driven, formal study program encourages students to explore new ideas, but also gives them the specific skills they need for real jobs in the real world, and guides them through training paths leading directly to employment. 

Upon completing the RCC program, students are prepared for positions in restaurants, fast food establishments, catering facilities, institutional food service, hotels, cruise lines, gaming establishments and related businesses. 

Students in the culinary specialty benefit from hands-on instruction in the Center’s state-of-the-art kitchen lab. The newly renovated space at Broadway and Main Streets in the heart of Nyack, the lab features top-end, restaurant-quality equipment,10 cooking stations, meeting room space, and a theater with a professional kitchen stage for events and demonstrations.

The Center also houses the Hudson Market on Main, a retail deli/restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and catering options with a focus on fresh, locally sourced foods. The Market offers opportunities for RCC students to gain practical experience in food service, management and customer service.

About Rockland Community College, State University of New York 

Rockland Community College offers a safe, supportive learning environment for thousands of students from diverse backgrounds. Many of the programs offered — including hospitality and culinary arts — are designed to teach specific skills in a concentrated time frame so students can start a new career and earn a good salary in less than one year. More information at https://sunyrockland.edu/ 

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