Food from students and restaurants filled the Mercer County Community College cafeteria for the annual benefit of the Pastry Arts Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship and benefit event on Nov. 6 in West Windsor was created by Chef Frank Benowitz in honor of two colleagues who passed away — pastry chefs Anne Lumberger and Shari Widmayer.
Those who attended the packed event tasted food created by students from the Culinary School at the college and community restaurants.
“Two of our pastry chefs who I call dear friends, Chef Anne and Chef Shari, passed away. Chef Anne passed away from breast cancer and Chef Shari from ovarian cancer,” Benowitz said. “I started this event six years ago as a memorial scholarship so that their names live on. It has grown and evolved each year and I am very proud to be part of this.”
He said that 100% of the proceeds from the event go straight to the scholarship endowment fund due to community restaurants who support this special event with tables of food that they donate.
Those community restaurants included Small World Coffee in Princeton, Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, Wegmans in Princeton, Nassau Inn in Princeton, Terra Momo Bread Company, Trattoria Procaccini in Princeton, Blend and Brother’s Pizza in Hamilton, and Palace of Asia in Lawrenceville.
“The support has grown so much that we have tonight not only our overall scholarship winner, but two semifinalists,” Benowitz said.
The overall scholarship winner was Julie Cortese with an Autumn Tart, she was joined by Katherine Marroquin who created Flan de Gucoy and Jessica Clark produced a gooey Apple Butter Cake with salted caramel ice cream.
“It was a month long process to decide the winner ahead of the benefit event,” Benowitz said.
The students have to come up with an original pastry creation that is judged on originality, looks, smell and taste.
The pastry creations from the students had their own narrative and what they meant to each student. Students can only participate in it once.
“I try to see it through the eyes of Chef Anne and Chef Shari in what they would pick in the winners. I am so proud of these three pastry students and really all of our students who have gone above and beyond,” Benowitz said.
He said that he has achieved even more than he thought from this annual event in honor of Chef Anne and Chef Shari.
“We sold out of tickets three weeks prior to this event. This is memorable for our students and our community,” Benowitz said. “Mercer County Community College has a quality program for hospitality, culinary and pastry arts and culinology.”
Cortese received a $1,000 scholarship from the fund with Marroquin and Clark also each receiving a $500 scholarship.
The scholarships are specifically for continuing students at Mercer County Community College.
“This means I am done having to worry about paying for school. I have enough money to get through graduation,” Cortese said. “To know that I received this award after following two amazing pastry chefs that Chef Frank holds in high regards means an incredible amount to me. Two of my friends have won this scholarship previously as well so it is great to follow them also.”
She said her creation Autumn Tart is made from her favorite fall recipes.
“I pulled together all my favorite things I ate as a child during this season and what I just love about this time. The crust is ginger snap and toasted pecan. After that it is layered in with pear, cinnamon, caramel compo,” Cortese said. “On top of that is a cranberry orange chutney with a pumpkin spice whipped cream. It is all of the flavors that you think of with Autumn.”
The benefit event also featured a silent auction and tricky tray items. Tricky Tray items included gift certificates, gift baskets, limited edition shirts and hats, but also knives.