Rowan College interns assist culinary team at Deborah hospital

JoAnne Ream, left, Deborah's Director of Food and Nutritional Services, with RCBC student Nicolette Belperio.

Running an institutional kitchen involves many moving parts, and when it includes serving 5,300 meals weekly to hospital patients and staff, it is of critical importance.

As the first to intern at Deborah Heart and Lung Center’s Food and Nutritional Services Department, Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) pastry student Nicolette Belperio has come to learn this rather quickly.


Since November, Belperio has spent two days per week at the hospital. While there, she’s added a variety of skills to her arsenal, including meal planning, food purchasing and safe handling and product storage. As the internship advances, she’ll learn about cooking and preparing food to exacting standards and nutritional quality, budgeting, tracking finances and more.

“Nicolette has been a great fit for our organization, showing initiative and willingness to pitch in and help in every facet of the kitchen, including spending time in the dish room,” Deborah’s Director of Food and Nutritional Services JoAnne Ream said. “This attitude enables her to broaden her skill set on the job, and really and fully understand all the components involved in making our kitchen run smoothly.”

Since the inception of the college’s nursing program, RCBC has fostered a longstanding relationship with Deborah Heart and Lung Center.

“Recently, under the leadership of college President Dr. Michael A. Cioce, we have broadened our collaboration into the health sciences and information technology programs,” Deborah’s President and CEO Joseph Chirichella said. “Now, the culinary partnership provides an opportunity for students to learn institutional food preparation; and the staff and patients at the Center benefit from input on improving the offerings from the chefs and instructors in the culinary program.”

Deborah’s Culinary Internship Program includes a structured curriculum that aligns with their corporate governance, mission and values, while carefully following New Jersey State Sanitation Code and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. Through this opportunity, students benefit from practical, hands-on advice and experience. Additionally, they learn many of the administrative tasks that go hand-in-hand with managing a commercial kitchen, including motivating staff, working together and fitting in with a company’s overall corporate strategic plan.

“Deborah Heart and Lung is really a great environment; their mission is something unheard of and what they do for their patients is truly touching,” Belperio said. “Going into this, I had no idea what to expect, but I am happy I chose to do so. I’ve met so many amazing people who are teaching me things I never thought I would ever get the chance to learn. They are some of the kindest and down-to-earth people you could ever come in contact with, and they’ve made such an impact on my life in such a short amount of time. I am very thankful that RCBC chose me to take on this great journey.”

To learn more about RCBC’s culinary programs, visit

  • This article was provided by Rowan College at Burlington County