Downtown

City Tech baccalaureate celebration brings new generation of chefs, managers to the forefront

June 4, 2018 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: City Tech Distinguished Alumnus and co-owner of Queen Italian Restaurant Pasquino Vitiello with Chefs de Cuisine of America President Hermann Reiner. Eagle photos by Andy Katz

When chef Pasquino “Pat” Vitiello entered City Tech’s Atrium Amphitheater on May 14, it constituted a homecoming of sorts because nearly four decades prior, Vitiello himself had graduated from this place, earning an Associate Degree in hospitality management.

“There’s something very special about City Tech grads,” he explained after the ceremony. Asked how Tech grads compare to those from some of other, famous culinary institutions such as Johnson & Wales or CIA, Vitiello explained, “They have a get up and go — a way of approaching the job — and they know their stuff.”

Vitiello, along with his brother Vincent, own and operate Queen Italian Restaurant on Court Street between Livingston and Schermerhorn streets. In September of this year, Queen will celebrate the 60 anniversary of its founding by chef Anthony Vitiello, Pat and Vincent’s father.

Sixty years is epochal for any business, especially one like a restaurant, the majority of which close their doors within the first three years of operating. What is Queen’s secret besides great food?

“I was there for lunch this afternoon,” Vitiello said, “and I’m heading back to cover late dinner service.”

And “cover” doesn’t mean sitting in a cubicle office, shuffling papers while the kitchen staff get slammed. Pat and Vincent personally work the hot line, cooking, plating, expediting … “hands on 100 percent.”

Vitiello has taken an uncharacteristic break from the kitchen to join former Windows on the World executive chef Hermann Reiner in awarding Chefs de Cuisine certificates to three graduates. Back in 1979, Vitiello himself won the same award.

“For the students who demonstrated sustained commitment in pursuing a career in culinary or pastry arts,” announced Chefs de Cuisine of America President Reiner as Martin Benetiz, Jessica Abate and Amy Ng Sang stepped forth to receive their certificates.

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Numerous awards and honors were accorded during the hour-long ceremony, beginning with City Tech Distinguished Alumnus John Karangis, executive chef of Union Square Events, the catering arm of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. In remarks choked with emotion, Karangis thanked his family and parents for their support, quoting his father’s advice: “Don’t ever let anyone outwork you.”

“Over the years this program has produced an amazing amount of success,” he continued. “Whenever I return here, I’m amazed by the degree of energy and creativity.”

Next up, chef Michael Romano, Class of 1974, presented the first batch of awards for the students themselves. “I graduated from here 44 years ago — I can’t tell you how much enjoy saying that!” Romano told the audience. He presented the awards — named for him — to Rie Uematsu for displaying outstanding promise in the culinary or pastry arts and to Yoaquina Rollins for displaying outstanding promise in the field of restaurant management.

Thenceforth the awards came hot and heavy.

“We have an ongoing relationship with groups such as the Partridge Invitation Scholarship Foundation and Chefs de Cuisine,” said Hospitality Management program Chairwoman Elizabeth Schiable. “They have scholarships and grants to provide our students, so we help to evaluate them. All in all, it leaves us with a pretty healthy endowment.”

After the awards ceremony guests were invited upstairs to take part in a catered dinner prepared by class of 2019 culinary and pastry arts students.

“It’s all good,” Romano exalted, “but this jambalaya is just out of this world!”

Dessert plates threatened to topple over as guests were overwhelmed by the salted caramel choux chantilly, banana pudding shooters, blueberry cinnamon cake and ice box cheesecake with strawberries, to name just a few of the desserts offered.

Asked was he ever tempted to open a second or third location as have so many chefs whose first endeavor succeeded, Vitiello shook his head. “If we can keep the seats warm in our place, we’re happy.”

 

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