Elaina D’Orto '13 is artfully arranging cheese platters and crudité for a function at the Three Chimney’s Inn in Durham. This work provides her with real-world experience in the culinary industry through a semester-long internship at the Thompson School of Applied Science’s Culinary Arts and Nutrition program. “I’m looking forward to cooking here as well,” says D’Orto whose future plans include owning a small catering company with a friend.
This is the burgeoning of D’Orto’s third career – after 27 years in the military as an inflight refueling operator and work as a tool and die maker at the shipyard – and the realization of a long-held dream. “Food is my livelihood; it’s how I grew up,” says D’Orto about her Italian heritage. “When you have a social function, it revolves around food.”
The Culinary Arts and Nutrition curriculum provides D’Orto and her fellow students with many opportunities to improve their cooking abilities and techniques over the course of two years. “The program has been wonderful. The eight of us [students] in the class all hit it off together,” says D’Orto, “and Charlie [Caramihalis] and Julie [Guyette] are amazing instructors.”
Travis Patno '13 at the Stage Neck Inn.
Such positive sentiments are echoed by Jack Goldberg '13 and Travis Patno '13, the two other second-year students participating in internships at the York Harbor Inn and the Stage Neck Inn, respectively. “We really have each other’s backs,” says Patno. “We’re a good team and we all work well together.” Patno is gaining valuable experience through both this internship and his work as a line cook at Wentworth-by-the-Sea, which strengthens his ability to find a desirable full-time position in the industry after graduation. “I am going to work my way up the ladder and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself,” Patno says.
“The Culinary Arts and Nutrition Program has been great preparation for me,” says Goldberg. “The small class sizes have given me the opportunity to do a lot more than I would be doing in other culinary programs. And Charlie and Julie have extensive culinary knowledge. They’re always level headed and try to help you learn as much as possible.” Goldberg, who grew up cooking with his parents, has been involved in the restaurant industry since he was fifteen. “I started with doing prep work and moved right up to the line,” he says. Goldberg is gaining practical knowledge about quantity cooking and economics at the Thompson School and in his internship, where, he says, the head chef is a stickler about not wasting food and getting the most out of your money.
Jack Goldberg '13 at the York Harbor Inn.
D’Orto, Patno, and Goldberg have also taken advantage of being part of the Culinary Team at UNH under the direction of Coach Len Martin. During last winter’s American Culinary Federation (ACF) Student Competition, the team brought home the bronze – an unprecedented win for freshman in a program. With a full year of experience behind them, and the solid skills they’ve gained through hands-on practice in their internships, the team is going for the gold this year. They’ll be competing against Southern New Hampshire University and, possibly, Portsmouth High School to demonstrate their best culinary skills and create an award-winning chicken breast with shallot lemon sauce, known as Poule Sauté Bercy. “There’s a classical entre that you have to prepare as your protein,” says D’Orto, “and you can use your creativity for everything else around it.”
D’Orto, Patno, and Goldberg will each be taking a test, administered by the ACF this winter, to become a Certified Culinarian. It is the first step in the process of working towards Master Chef status, of which there are less than 40 in the entire United States. For now, the students are satisfied to learn and grow together while taking measured steps up the ladder of culinary success.