More than 180 Mainers watched Southern Maine Community College students work alongside renowned chefs from Portland restaurants, then enjoyed their culinary creations, at A Light on the Point on Nov. 8, a celebration of the college’s culinary arts and hospitality management programs.

“It was a novel idea that we sort of hit upon, and I didn’t expect to get this kind of support from the chefs in the community,” said event chairman David Turin of David’s Restaurants. “I’m super happy.”

This first-time progressive supper and behind-the-scenes tour of SMCC’s culinary kitchens raised more than $50,000 for scholarships for culinary arts and hospitality management students, as well as the President’s Emergency Fund, which provides financial support to deserving students who are experiencing unexpected financial difficulties.

“The food is unbelievable,” raved Becky Rand of Becky’s Diner. “One thing is better than the next.”

Featured chefs from Central Provisions, Sur Lie, Evo Kitchen, Union at the Press Hotel, Lolita and Piccolo walked SMCC students through their recipes in advance, then came back for the big night to lend a hand with students at the helm. Mixologists from Fore Street and Portland Hunt + Alpine Club poured drinks, and Eventide Oyster Co. had a shucker on hand. Hospitality management students planned and executed the event, from marketing and setup down to the name tags.

“The students did an incredible job,” said dining room instructor Angela Aspito. “So many of the guests this evening were shocked that this was all run by students.”

The event highlighted interconnections within the local culinary community, with attendees representing not only SMCC and local restaurants and bars, but also the Casco Bay Culinary Association, University of Southern Maine, high school vocational programs, local food producers and dozens of sponsors.

“You could see the students just blossoming as they worked alongside the real professionals in the industry,” said Tracy Michaud, chair of the tourism and hospitality program at USM. “And that’s the best way to learn.”

High school vocational instructors Herman Ammarman of Northern Penobscot Tech Region III and Mark Hannibal of Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) each brought a few students from their programs.

“We teamed them up with chefs, just like the college kids,” Hannibal said. “My kids are over there shucking oysters.”

“We don’t have these chefs where we come from,” Ammarman said. “So we need to show them that this is a viable occupation – and can be fun.”

“The level of expertise in this building tonight is unbelievable,” said Wil Beriau, president of the Casco Bay Culinary Association and former chair of the SMCC culinary arts program. “And this is the future of our industry.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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