The Class of 2020 and 2021 Culinary Education Center of Monmouth County held their awards ceremony at the Collins Arena at Brookdale Community College. A celebration has not been held there in two years. Professor Michelle Zuppe of Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management at Brookdale and Assistant Principal Jamie Soto of Monmouth County Vocational School District (MCVSC), hosted the event.

President Dr. David Stout congratulated this year’s culinary graduates for their persistence, hard work, and dedication. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, their studies were interrupted in the spring of 2020. However, they came back in the summer to finish the courses and persevered to graduate.

“You came to obtain a particular set of skills, and you are leaving Brookdale with so much more,” Stout said. “I am proud to call you Brookdale graduates and proud that you are part of the Brookdale family.”

“It is a true collaboration between Brookdale and Monmouth County Vocational School District that makes it such an excellent program,” said Dr. Charles Ford, superintendent of MCVSC, as he congratulated the Class of 2020 and 2021. “Just by making it here today shows us your dedication to excellence. You showed us that no matter what the circumstance, you are willing to work to achieve your dreams.” He thanked the dedicated staff, administration, and Dr. Stout for the hard work they put into this program, and he encouraged the graduates to continue to strive for excellence.

Chef David Burke, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, was the guest speaker. He is considered a rock star of modern American cuisine, has won numerous awards, including being nominated twice for the James Beard Best Chef. He is a television personality and a leading contributor to ABC, FOX, Forbes, NYTimes, and Bloomberg. In addition, during the pandemic he fed the front-line workers, has a cookware line, has published two cookbooks, and has 19 restaurants. Three are in Monmouth County. Beach Haus Bar & Grill in Belmar,  DRIFTHOUSE in Sea Bright, and Red Horse in Rumson. He is a strong supporter of both the culinary and hospitality programs at Brookdale and has taken five externships for this summer.

Congratulations, a big congratulations! I graduated in May 39 years ago, so I know the feeling,” Burke said. He compared this year to being in the kitchen where there are always lots of surprises. Having grown up in Hazlet, he has Monmouth County roots, worked in the Eatontown mall, the Navesink Country Club, the Fromagerie in Rumson, which he now owns, called the Red Horse, his second time owning it. He said about making mistakes, “Learn from them, grow from them, do not be afraid of making them, because that is what is going to make you better.” He gave some great advice to the graduates on the steps to take to achieve their career goals. “Today, the sky is the limit. It is an exciting place to be. Thanks to many things, it is a respected industry, people understand the hard work that goes into it, and the food network has helped,” Burke said. “Pay attention to critics, listen to your heart, follow your dreams, work hard and stay healthy.”

Graduate and student speaker David Large introduced himself as being from the class of Covid-19. “This was a spectacular program. Each instructor helped by giving me insights into different facets of the business.  I learned how to adapt and pay attention to detail,” Large said. “I have gained so many friends in this program that has provided a family for me. I could not imagine going through this program without any of them.”

The graduating class consisted of 71 students who earned degrees and certificates. Of those, 30 students graduated with various honors.

The following students received culinary awards:

Community Service Awards: Paul Allen, Devon Albers, Mark Armellino, Ana Bianchi, Amanda Colette Borreo, Maximillian Cross, Dakota Garback, Justin Hanley, David Hurley, Emma Hutt, Thomas Keating, David Large, Erin Lietz, Emily Reid, Gladis Rubio, Aimy Sato, John Smertneck, Francesca Andrea Shadel

Skills, USA: Emma Hutt, Aimy Sato

Epicurean Club Award: David Large, Devon Albers

Pastry Arts Club Award: David Hurley

PTK Recognition: Raeanne Kukulski

Certificates of Merit: Thomas Keating, Emma Hutt, Dakota Garback

Student Recognition Awards

Maitre d’ Award: Kristin O’Shea

Excellence in Baking and Pastry Award: Emily Reid

Chef Instructors’ Award: Jessica Monsorno

Academic Excellence Awards

Certificate in Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts

Bronze:  Gabrielle Schinnagel

Silver: Christina Allan, Vincent Barba, Concetta Paige DeSimone, Maria Ramirez Dominguez, Raeanne Kukulski, David Large, Jessica Monsorna, Emily Reid, Francesca Andrea Shadel, Brianna Zeleznik

Gold: Colette Borreo, Yvonne Ovalle

Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts

Bronze: Paul Allen, Anna Bianchi, Dakota Garback, Kristin O’Shea, Emily Reid, Aimy Sato

Silver: Emma Hutt, David Large, Thomas Keating, Emily Trzesinski, Melissa Wronko 

Gold: John Smertneck

Culinary Excellence Awards

White Cordon, 3rd placeJohn Smertneck

Red Cordon, 2nd place, Emily Reid

Blue Cordon, 1st place, Aimy Sato

“The Blue Cordon Award is one that each student has coveted from the time they entered the school’s halls with all the photos of the previous top-of-the-class alumni,” said chef Chad Schoonveld, instructor of culinary arts at Brookdale. The student who receives this award demonstrates philanthropy, leadership, outstanding academics, and work ethic in the culinary field. Schoonveld introduced Sato by saying, “She came to Brookdale’s program as a student taking on a new academic challenge. She showed immediate dedication and a promise to the program, and her achievement of organizational skills was unsurpassed. To assimilate from another country is not always easy, but through the use of college support, as well as her classmates and instructors here, she becomes a shining star and an example of what we strive to achieve.”

Link to culinary program at Brookdale