With the hospitality industry continuing to grow yearly, there remains a high demand for skilled chefs. However, being a chef is more than being able to cook. They also need to develop and master some critical skills. Brookdale Community College recently recognized the top three students in the Culinary Class of 2022. The students are all willing to learn, have genuine passion, and are organized. In addition, the ability to skillfully multitask, creativity, and teamwork are some of the skills they developed during their time at Brookdale. 

The coveted Top of the Class Blue Cordon went to Erin Bruther. During the pandemic, she was a beacon of light in a challenging time dealing with educational dedication and focus. She welcomingly mentored, coached, and assisted others with her skills and abilities. 

“Erin has a gentle attitude and was always a gracious and welcoming addition to any class and her demeanor will be sincerely missed,” said Chef Schoonveld, Instructor of Culinary Arts at Brookdale, who presented Bruther with the award. “Her ability to pick up and go with new ideas and handle problems with a get it done attitude won her many awards and accolades.”  

In addition to being a top chef in the kitchen, Bruther was a top student in the classroom and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. All around campus, she served as a volunteer and leader; and was the acting president of the Epicurean Club.  

Hannah Cortese earned the second-place Culinary Excellence Award Red Cordon for her dedication to the craft, passion, and fantastic attitude. 

Chef Bill Roll, Assistant Professor of Culinary Arts at Brookdale, met Cortese one morning when he was asked to cover a high school bake shop class. One student in that class stood out to Chef Roll. Cortese had laser focus and was working tremendously clean and organized. He could immediately tell that she was serious about her job. He asked her what her plans were for the following year, and she mentioned that she would be joining the College program.  

Throughout the next two years, Chef Roll had Cortese several times in his class. “She led the class with her actions,” he said. “She was always the first one to arrive for class. She wore a perfect uniform, was prepared with all our mise en place and always wanted to know how to make the dish better.” 

The White Cordon Award recognizes the third-place student of the graduating class. Danielle Valente earned this award and has left a lasting impression at the Culinary Education Center.  

“At first, I met her as a high school vocational student and quickly saw the passion and potential to succeed in the industry,” said Chef Marie Bouchard, Instructor of Culinary Arts at Brookdale. “Although she was not even a Brookdale student yet, I worked one-on-one with her to train for a Skills USA competition.” Valente spent countless hours volunteering and participating in the Epicurean Club. Although everyone is  excited about her future, her bubbly personality will be missed in the hallway and kitchen next year. 

These three graduates have been recognized for having the critical skills needed to be a chef, and Brookdale’s Culinary Arts Program has given them the foundation of training they will need to launch their careers.