Student chefs put skills to test at The Bistro

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The Bistro Restaurant, featuring cuisine from area students, is open again until July 20, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, 7300 N. Palmyra Road.

The Bistro is the final stage of MCCTC’s culinary school’s 10-month curriculum, said Sean Kushma, chef and instructor.

“It’s the full restaurant experience,” he said. “[Students] get to choose what to serve on the menu and make everything. We don’t get anything frozen.”

Sean Guerrieri, 21, of Struthers, said as a student of the program he feels better prepared than many others in the restaurant business because of all of his training.

“We are cross-trained in practically everything, so it really opens up opportunities for us,” he said.

Guerrieri said he is so inspired by MCCTC’s program he would like to go on to teach culinary arts.

“I just want to tell people to come in and have fun,” he said. “We are a training facility, but we all work together as a team, and when you can see what we do ... we open doors for other people around here.”

Like Guerrieri, student Christy Upole, 36, of Youngstown, also cherishes her MCCTC experience.

“I never worked in the restaurant industry so this was all new to me. But it was in line with what I always did,” she explained. “I always enjoyed cooking for family, friends and loved ones. I’ve been in the kitchen since I was a little girl, and it was the right time in my life for a change, and here I am.”

Upole said seeing the program through to The Bistro has been an “absolute payoff” to move toward her career goal to be a private chef.

Kushma said seeing students such as Upole and Guerrieri have so much pride in the final stages of their work makes his work worth it.

“I like looking from the first part of the year – never cooking before – and seeing them get out of this program and go on and be successful in life,” he said.

Customer Roxanne Chernikovich returns when The Bistro is in action to celebrate the success of her son, Gary Chernikovich, a former MCCTC culinary program graduate.

“We just love it here, and we love the food, and we love the program,” she said. “Our son graduated, and he is now a chef.”

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