Students Close Conference Serving Up Samplings of Innovation

Colleges plant many seeds that they nourish with information, instruction and innovation to help their students flourish. At tecBRIDGE’s Innovation Conference on August 11, you’ll have the opportunity to lift the proverbial lid to see what some of the ingredients are in Lackawanna College’s secret sauce at their student-run restaurant 409 on Adams in downtown Scranton.   

After a day spent feeding curiosity and an appetite for learning at this year’s Education-Innovation themed Conference, attendees will polish off their experience by observing firsthand the innovation that Lackawanna College’s Kiesendahl School of Hospitality is using to empower their culinary students to succeed.

Innovation is applied after the basics are learned.

Kristen McNally, Director of the Kiesendahl School of Hospitality at Lackawanna College, says that students must learn the classical and basic techniques that will always remain the same and are important building blocks before they can move on to more contemporary techniques. “A sear will always be a sear,” McNally says, adding that once those basics are learned, then students can attempt the latest culinary trends and technologies—something that will be on full display for conference goers to explore as they move from station to station at 409 on Adams.

Mc Nally says attendees can visit stations at their own pace, trying samples of food and non-alcoholic drinks and asking culinary students any questions they may have about the specific technique on display at that station or about the students’ experiences attending Lackawanna College.

What culinary innovations will conference attendees experience?

Attendees will taste foods, drinks and experience fine service, all under the leadership of the Culinary Department’s faculty: Chef Mark Seibert, the Culinary Program Manager; Chef Christa Sapone, Baking and Pastry Program Coordinator, and Chef Susan Markovich, Special Programs Coordinator and Restaurant Manager.

Guests can visit all of the following stations:

  • Hydroponics Station – With this innovation, the College is planting literal seeds without the use of soil that not only help students’ knowledge grow, but also creates food for them to harvest and serve in dishes at the restaurant. At this station, guests can examine the Flex Farm Hydroponic system, a self-contained water system that grows plants in nutrient rich water. McNally says that some microgreens harvested from this system will be served up in an appetizer sampling.
  • 3D Printer Station – The 3D printer machine used to create three-dimensional pieces of chocolate, in white and dark, will be on display, along with samples of chocolate printed from the printer and incorporated into the dessert of the evening.  In past dining experiences, students created chocolate falcon figurines because, as Lackawanna College’s mascot, the falcon seemed the tastiest choice for inclusion in a dessert.
  • Drinks Station – Due to the range in ages of the audience, McNally says that “mocktails” will be created at the drinks station that will be fun for all ages. The Flavor Blaster is a very visual technique that infuses flavors into drinks with bubbles and will also create a smoky sample for sipping.
  • Nourishing Neighbors Project – At this station, visitors can learn about this very special project that is a true collaboration. McNally says that while students come first at the college, contributing to the community is also a top priority. The Nourishing Neighbors Project allows the school to not only address the vital need to feed many families in the greater Scranton area, but it was also the perfect recipe for collaboration within the college. (In June of this year our Executive Director Don Webster spoke with Stephanie Decker, AVP of Social and Economic Impact at Lackawanna College on tecBRIDGE Radio about about the wonderful work taking place at Lackawanna College. If you haven’t already, listen to the conversation here.)

Culinary students have the ‘daunting’ task of tasting what they bake and cook (it’s tough, but someone has to do it) and there is often food left over. It made perfect sense to put this food to good use. Once the culinary students have done their part in food prep and cooking, the food is delivered to families in need by students of Lackawanna College’s Act 21 Cadet Program.

McNally says, “We want families and young children to have a good experience with law enforcement and create a connection through this positive experience.” She added that they hope the cadets can build a relationship of trust that will carry into the future with those families and neighborhoods.  

Throughout the evening, many tours of the kitchen at the 409 on Adams Restaurant will be offered. McNally says they want everyone to have plenty of time to visit each station, network and talk with students.

Part of being innovative, is being able to respond well to change.

The innovation of Lackawanna College is not only on display at our Innovation Conference; there are many examples to point out. The school adapted well once the pandemic emerged in 2020 and in-person education was halted.  McNally says that culinary students were given recipes and gift cards to purchase ingredients; then they recorded themselves cooking the food for their assignments and submitted their videos for grades. While it was not ideal, they were still able to do hands-on training.

Another way the College demonstrated not only adaptability, but an investment in the community, was through an event held at 409 on Adams called “Rally for Restaurants.” This event took place once restaurants were able to open back up and it worked in everyone’s favor–and flavor. Chefs from local restaurants came to the college’s kitchen to teach students how to create certain dishes and then the food was served at dinners the public attended. Participating restaurants were able to keep the proceeds from those dinners.

Dining experiences at 409 on Adams are truly delicious…because of the flavors of the food and the experience students are receiving. If you would like to be a patron and enjoy the tasty creations and service at the student-run 409 on Adams restaurant, with seating available outdoors as well as indoors, visit the site to make your dinner reservations.  Remember that while dates do book quickly, there are often cancellations so it’s a good idea to put your name on the waiting list.