There are advantages and disadvantages to being old. A main disadvantage is that you hear of something and you roll your eyes and think, “Been there, done that.” That was my first thought when I learned that there was another version of the American Culinary Federation re-emerging in central Pennsylvania.
Culinary types who have been in the game around here just as long may remember meetings in the ’80s that centered on food company reps presenting their convenience products. Let me just say, I didn’t get much out of them. But that was 30 or so years ago, and I do realize the ACF is a strong organization that raised public awareness and codified the steps to professional recognition in the culinary arena. I went to another meeting and I’m glad I did.
The local ACF chapter spearheaded by Chef Zach Lorber is a whole new ball game. In his own words, “The mission of the Southern Allegheny Chefs Association is to serve as a networking, idea sharing and educational platform for the culinary community in central Pennsylvania. Our monthly meetings serve as a means for educating on current topics and trends, techniques and flavors, and supporting the next generation of culinarians attending local vocational programs. Recent programs have included local food systems, legislative updates and trend forecasts, and gluten-free cooking.”
The meetings are at 7 p.m. the second Monday of the month at various places within the Southern Allegheny district, which encompasses Centre, Blair, Cambria, Somerset and Bedford counties.
At a recent meeting at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Pleasant Gap, Chef Tim Beckenbaugh hosted a discussion of the Southern Alleghenies Local Food Network meeting that Lorber attended as a representative of the chapter. Lorber boasted glowing reports about chefs and farmers connecting at the meeting and learned about some brand new initiatives.
Fourteen attendees heard a presentation about gluten-free living by Angie Wallace, of Be Well Associates; Karen Giornesto, of the State College Celiac Support Group; and Louisa Smith, from the Good Seed Baking Company.. Many attendees shared their own experiences trying to make menu products available to this growing segment of the population that wants gluten-free foods. Lorber distributed information about where to order gluten-free products through a food service distributor, and Smith shared gluten-free pesto foccacia and buttermilk muffins. A wide array of gluten-free baked goods prepared by the CPI team were sampled and enjoyed. After the meeting, some chatted, snacked and toured the facility kitchen.
Meetings are open to the public and their activities or some of their chef members will be featured monthly in this column.
Lorber said his goal for the Southern Allegheny Chefs Association is to provide a venue for “continuing education, networking and fun for the local culinary community.” He is a man with a mission and going full-steam ahead on the right track.