By Cheryl Radkiewicz
Dunmore resident Chef P. J. Lemoncelli has won the prestigious International Flight Services Association Best In-Flight Executive Chef of 2016 at the 8th Annual Chef’s Competition held this fall at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.
Lemoncelli, a graduate of Lakeland High School and the Pennsylvania College of Technology Culinary Arts Program, wowed judges with his winning dishes, Langoustine sauteed in butter/olive oil with an Israeli Couscous Salad with Sea Asparagus and garnished with lightly seasoned microgreens and Lemon Oil and Pan-Seared Asian Beef Tenderloin with a Sweet and Salty White Miso Trumpet Mushroom Glaze and Pan Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.
Lemoncelli competed against the most talented chefs from around the world winning a personalized chef jacket and two round-trip tickets to Hawaii. Judging was based on presentation, flavor, textures and doneness.
The Dunmore chef began his career cooking at the former Alora Room in Peckville. For the past nine years, he has served as Executive Chef at Preferred Meals in Moosic where he oversees all Research and Development, Production, and Quality Assurance.
He has been recognized by corporate headquarters in Chicago for his creative and innovative recipes and meticulous, organized approach to meal preparation. Preferred Meals is one of the country’s largest, innovative suppliers of healthy, well-balanced meals to public and private school districts, charter schools, senior citizen facilities and airlines. It operates three central kitchen operation facilities located in Moosic, Chicago and Brooklyn.
During an interview with Chef Lemoncelli, he noted that the three facilities all have different capabilities with Moosic’s emphasis on pasta, rice, sauces, and meals, while Chicago is known for its bakery and pizzas, and Brooklyn’s main capability is sandwiches and salads. The Moosic plant employs 300 employees with 80 percent of its production going to inner city schools and 20 percent to airlines.
Lemoncelli’s staff includes only two other professionals, Chef Kate Gabriele, a graduate of Baltimore Culinary Institute, and Chef Gino LaRusso, a graduate of West Scranton High School and currently a student at Lackawanna College’s Culinary Arts Program. The three chefs have the monumental tasks of not only menuing for schools, which includes following nutritional guidelines for students’ lunches, but also developing new meals for airlines.
Chef Lemoncelli credits his 100 percent Italian background and his family for his love of food and cooking. He is the son of Paul and Diane Mecca Lemoncelli, Scott Twp., and resides with his wife, Shelly, an administrative assistant at the Commonwealth Medical College.
After spending a delightful and informative interview with the chef, he agreed to share some of his personal recipes with our readers:
Apple Cider Sangria:
3 Cinnamon sticks
1 Gala apple, sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1 Anjou pear, sliced
1 Orange, sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1-750 ml. bottle Pinot Grigio
3 cups Apple Cider
1 cup Brandy
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
Add cinnamon sticks to the bottom of a gallon container. Slice up the apples, pear and orange. Add into the gallon container along with the cranberries. Next, add the Pinot Grigio, apple cider, brandy, and freshly squeezed juices into the gallon container. Add the sugar. Close the container and shake so all of the ingredients start to marry with each other. Let sit for a minimum of 12 hours to let flavors develop. Note: When serving, you can fill the glass 3/4’s of the way and top with cranberry ginger ale. Yield: approximately 3 quarts; To serve: Rim the glass with an orange wedge and cinnamon sugar. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, apple wedge and orange wedge. Chef P.J. add that the number of portions depends on if you want to share any.
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Shrimp, 16/20 count, peeled and de-veined
1 shallot, minced
1 whole head garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1- 4oz. stick unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 box thin wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to a large nonstick pan. Once the oil is heated, saute’ shrimp for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil to the pan. Add shallots and garlic and saute’ over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add white wine. Bring to boil and reduce amount by half.
Add chicken stock, unsalted butter, and lemon juice to pan. Heat over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Add grated cheese and fresh parsley. Add cooked spaghetti and reserved shrimp.
Toss or mix with tongs to combine and heat through. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Yield: 2 lbs., 4 portions.
To serve: Garnish with Parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Substitute pasta of your choice, regular or wheat.
1/2 lb. fresh Salmon filet, medium dice
4 Tbsp. red onion, minced
4 Tbsp. red bell pepper, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
2 scallions, sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
In medium bowl, place medium-diced salmon. After cutting up veggies and herbs, add into bowl with salmon. Zest lemon into mixture. Next, add egg, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Season mixture with black pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Add panko bread crumbs into mixture. Time to get your hands dirty and mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed and incorporated. Let sit for 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 375F. Portion into 6-6 oz. burgers or to the desired size of your liking. Place burgers on greased sheet tray to avoid sticking. For the 6 oz. portion, bake for 20 minutes. If you portion a smaller size, decrease by 5 minutes and if your portion a larger size, increase by 5 minutes. Yield: Approx. 6-6 oz. burgers. Portions: 6. To serve: Serve on an Onion Roll with Dill Lemon Yogurt and Spring Mix.
Dill Lemon Yogurt:
2-5.3 oz. containers of plain Greek yogurt
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. red onion, minced
3 Tbsp. red bell pepper, minced
2 scallions, sliced
3 Tbsp. fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Add the plain Greek yogurt to a medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice and zest, Sriracha, and honey. Add prepped vegetables and herbs into the mixture. Whisk to incorporate. Season with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk for 1 minute until well combined. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Note: This has a looser consistency. If you’d like to make a thicker consistency, substitute 4 Tbsp. of mayonnaise for 1-5.3 container of plain Greek yogurt. Yields approx. 2 cups.
To Serve: Serve with Salmon Burger (above), as a dressing for a salad or as a dip for chips.