Chef’s Tip: Jennifer O’Connell of The Cupcake Kitchen & Luncheonette in Irvington Holds Pastry Bag Upright Not to Crush Design on Valentine Cupcakes


Hi! Donna Monaco Olsen here, co-coordinator for the Taste of Westchester Continuing Education program for Westchester Community College here to share with you from a recent class. All classes are held within Westchester restaurants, where local chefs share their talents and recipes with us in their own dining rooms. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of classes, and I always learn something new!

For this particular class I helped to teach the techniques described below.

The 411 on The Cupcake Kitchen & Luncheonette.

Chef/Owner:  Jennifer O’Connell

Restaurant:  The Cupcake Kitchen & Luncheonette in Irvington

Tip:  When squeezing a pastry bag hold it in an upright position (not at an angle) so as not to crush the design with the edge of the tip.

Using the tip above we were shown how to hold the pastry bag perpendicular to the surface of the cupcake. This created an even flow of frosting, and enabled the design to be consistently detailed (not squished). This resulted in some professional looking and “heartfelt” cupcakes.












By putting two different colors of frosting side by side in a pastry bag you get a stripped swirl effect somewhat like a custard ice cream “twist” at Carvel (red raspberry and chocolate swirl or the pink and white rosettes above).

We were shown that there are many techniques to enhance the look of fondant by pressing the fondant onto a modeled board it added dimension to the hearts and gave them an embossed leather look. A cookie cutter or stencil is then used to cut the shape after embossing. You can use almost anything to “emboss” on fondant such as; a box grater, strainer, sieve, etc.








We were instructed to fill the inside of our white cupcake with strawberry cream by cutting a “cone shaped” piece out of the top and saving it to cork the filling (although hard to resist gobbling up the moist cake). We frosted over the top creating a sweet surprise for someone special.

Each attendee took home six beautifully decorated cupcakes to share with their loved ones and a photo shoot of all of our sweet Valentine creations ended our lesson.













Care to get tips first hand? Check out the current offerings at WCC Continuing Ed, Taste of Westchester. Classes are only $15+ a sampling fee.  Sign up with a friend for one demonstration or a few by contacting WCC via online or by phone at 606-6830×1.

I look forward to meeting you there! The new Spring semester has just begun!

Below are a few of the classes offered in our current semester. Please check out the website for a complete listing.

Join us at several of Westchester’s most exciting restaurants for a culinary adventure that will tantalize your taste buds. Each chef will offer a private cooking demonstration, followed by a tasting of the prepared items. Fees include non-alcoholic beverages. New menu items are explored each semester. Menu substitutions may occur when necessary. Demonstrations will begin at the times designated. Sampling fees are payable in CASH only.

There is still time to sign up for some great classes:

The Horse & Hound Inn,
Weekend Lunch
: Just as it must have been for stagecoaches long ago, the Inn is a beacon amid the dark and wooded roads of South Salem. Charming décor includes wide-planked floors, low ceilings, and original beams; the building dates back to 1749. During the almost twenty years the Vales have owned the Inn, there have been several sightings of spirits. The husband and wife team, Silvano and Sue Vales, have created good food and fun and will be our hosts (possibly along with some ghosts). Our appetizer lesson will be baked brie with pistachios, honey, and pears. We will have an education in composing an entrée of roasted salmon with shaved fennel and red onion in a citrus buerre blanc. To end on a sweet note, our lesson will be to create a strawberry panna cotta.
Sat., Feb. 23, 12:00-2:00 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee). #13183

La Catena Italian Restaurant,
With its warm Tuscan décor and welcoming chef you’ll feel as if you’re embarking on a trip to Italy. Northern and Southern Italian cuisines collide as Chef Emilio shows us how to create some of his special dishes. The chef will feed us generously while we learn his cooking techniques beginning with two of his favored appetizers, a salad of baby mixed greens with walnuts and dried cranberries, with a reduced balsamic, and his delicious mussels ala romano. Learn the skills necessary to make two special entrees: linguine brodetto (seafood in a light broth), and the house specialty: chicken rolled up with mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and roasted peppers in a mushroom sauce. Dark chocolate raspberry cake will be the sweet ending to a beautiful meal!
Mon., Mar. 4, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13186

Royal Palace,
Much of the complex flavors used in this restaurant’s cuisine come from fragrant aromatic spices like cardamom, coriander, and cumin. This restaurant serves a daily buffet which includes many traditional dishes. Owner Jagdish Mitter and his chef will be demonstrating how to make two appetizers: tawa chicken sautéed with onion, bell pepper, and spices cooked on a traditional hot plate, and aloo tikki with channa: seasoned potatoes batter fried with paneer (cottage cheese) and cashews. The entrees demonstrated will be kadhai paneer, house-made cottage cheese sautéed with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and seasoned with fresh herbs and spices, and the crowd pleaser of an authentic chicken tikka masala, simmered in a mild creamy tomato sauce served with naan bread. Come share in a taste of India!
Tues., Mar. 5, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $22 sampling fee). #13187

The Horse & Hound Inn,
As South Salem’s hidden gem, this innovative American fare restaurant and pub is set in a historic locale. 1749 is the earliest recorded date at Town Hall showing it as an Inn but it was a homestead long before that date. It has retained its charm with its wide-planked floors, low ceilings, original beams and “spirits” of both kinds. For the past seventeen years the husband and wife team of Silvano and Sue Vales have created good food and fun. To start our class, an amuse bouche of a fried oyster with baby arugula and Old Bay aioli. Our appetizer lesson will be grilled asparagus with goat cheese gratin. The house favorite, pan seared duck breast with strawberries and sage served with fiddlehead ferns, and mashed potatoes will be our entrée education for the night. To sweeten our lesson, a warm blueberry compote to be served over vanilla ice cream.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sat., Mar. 19, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $23 sampling fee). #13189

Tarry Tavern,
Owner Henry Cabral, who cooked alongside his dad in the family restaurant Caravela, has come up with a unique formula in a restaurant-rich town like Tarrytown. His casual American gastro-pub offers creative, locally sourced dishes, and seasonal menus inspired by what farmers and fishermen are growing, raising, and catching. Many patrons come before or after a show at the Hudson Valley’s Tarrytown Music Hall. The chef will show us how to make hand-made pasta with spring ingredients like peas, asparagus, or fava beans, along with a special entrée created with seasonal fare. All of our menu will be flourishes of spring market inspired ingredients. For dessert, creamy cheesecake baked in a jar. Join us for a peek into this inviting restaurant.
Mon., Apr. 8, 5:00-7:00 pm, $15 (+ $22 sampling fee). #13192

Don Coqui
Hands-on: Don Coqui is the latest and most exciting authentic Puerto Rican dining experience and has live entertainment many nights of the week. The first floor features an interactive professional demonstration kitchen with all the latest cooking gadgets. This kitchen and party space provides the perfect venue for us to help Chef Jack D’Angelo prepare our meal for the evening. We will start with their famous Puerto Rican beef sliders and grilled pineapple shrimp skewers, then a lesson on tostones with mojo sauce. To end on a sweet note, we will make a classic tres leche cake. Our beverage instruction from their bartender will be refreshing passion fruit mojitos.
Tues., Apr. 9, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13193

Division Street Grill,
Located in the heart of the downtown artist district, this restaurant is known for its great food with an eclectic feel. Listen to live jazz each weekend while enjoying nutritionally-healthy, robust flavors from Chef Pasquale Sarwar. Our lesson on surf and turf will begin with pan-seared beef tenderloin tips in a brandy stilton sauce, followed by sautéed diver scallops in a tomato concassé, and lemon butter sauce. Finish off the class with a dessert lesson on poached pears in wine served with vanilla ice cream.
Thurs., Apr. 11, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee). #13194

Memphis Mae’s BBQ,
Peek in the Kitchen: Now that your taxes are done, join us for some down-home comfort food, Southern style. Chef Andreas Norwara, a CIA graduate, grew up in BBQ country in the Midwest, and has been cooking “low and slow” for a very long time. Take a tour of the kitchen and see the smokers used to make magic! Watch this chef create his inviting Virginia peanut soup. Next we will try smoked chicken wings and their famous hog wings: house smoked pork shanks, bone in, tender on the inside, crispy on the outside goodness. A tutorial on some traditional sides and a new favorite, smoked corn salad, will fill our lesson. Fried peach pie for dessert will round out this Southern meal.
Mon., Apr. 15, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13195

Via Vanti!,
Take the Train
: Proprietor Carla Gambescia, a passionate Italiophile, will take us on a journey of the Fantastico Fig! Learn about this biblical fruit while enjoying a three course Italian festa. Learn from Carla’s top 10 fig facts. Begin this unique experience with a “figgy piggy” salad served with a Beatrice pizzette of wine-poached figs, gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, and Sicilian honey, followed by chicken rolled with figs, feta, and pistachios served with creamy polenta and a red grape sauce. Join in a perfect ending by indulging in a wine-poached fig with a shortbread cookie and a delicioso scoop of “New York’s best gelato” along with the history of gelato and unlimited tastes of all their eighteen daily flavors to end our lesson! As a bonus, a how-to on Bellini’s, a mixture of sparkling wine, traditionally Prosecco, and peach purée.
Tues., Apr. 16, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13196

The Cupcake Kitchen
and Luncheonette, Visit us on Facebook.
Hands-on: Located on historic Main Street, owner Jennifer O’Connell will give a hands-on instructional demonstration on decorating cupcakes. This will be an interactive class using decorating ideas for making cupcakes in flower motifs, to create six cupcakes in time for May flowers; you’ll use pastry bags fitted with all the tools needed to create beautiful cupcakes of your own. You’ll learn the recipe for their scrumptious butter cream icing; this luncheonette only uses fresh ingredients. They are famous for their tasty cupcakes along with creating custom designed cakes for special events and can be seen making a masterpiece while you dine. Enjoy a tasty cupcake of your choice and coffee or tea before we embark on our creative endeavors. Join us for a fun afternoon!
Thurs., Apr. 18, 4:30-6:30 pm, $15 (+ $21 sampling fee). #13197

Roasted Peppers,
This American bistro with strong Latin influences is the collaboration of Mexican born brothers Juan and Roberto Lepe, chefs in Westchester for over twenty years. The culinary experiences from their past have combined with their expertise and creativity to flourish into Roasted Peppers, their first restaurant venture. Chef Juan along with Chef Darrell Belcher, a 1987 CIA graduate, will show us the techniques used to create a few of their signature dishes. We will start with their stuffed roasted picadillo pepper two ways: ground beef, diced zucchini, carrots, onions, and green olives, versus a romesco and goat cheese stuffing. This will be followed by chipotle corn crusted salmon-roasted fish, cilantro mashed potatoes, and sautéed Swiss chard, with a chimichurri sauce. We will end with a jalapeño brownie served with coconut ice cream for a very different dessert.
Mon., Apr. 22, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13198

Caffé Azzurri,
Set in a lovely casual atmosphere, we will discover the authentic culinary flavors chef Jerry Colella has to offer. He has grown up in the restaurant business and uses his culinary skills to create a sumptuous dining experience. He will teach us to make a simple but delicious appetizer of ricotta crostini with fig balsamic glaze, followed by a spring vegetable risotto with asparagus and chorizo. For a sweet treat, a beautiful home-style Italian cheesecake from a family recipe. Join us for a delicious lesson with a fun and informative instructor!
Tues., Apr. 23, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13277

Albano Appliance, 
Born and raised in France, Chef Jehan S. deNoüe has over 35 years of experience in the area. He is now Albano Appliance’s own resident chef, managing the company’s continuing education program, including cooking classes, manufacturer demonstrations, and personal and in-home instruction. He is a most approachable and informed instructor and will give out tips on a variety of methodologies for preparing a fabulous meal, all the while toasting us with wine. Surrounded by high tech, and modern appliances, we will discover the flavors of his pepper salad, baby romaine with edamame drizzled with jalapeno dressing and bell pepper piperade. We will learn to make a mussels mariniere with chorizo sausage. For dessert, Chef Jehan will show us how to make a fresh berry fool. Do not miss this class as it is always a favorite!
Thurs., Apr. 25, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13200

AJ’s Burgers, 
Hands-on: At this hot spot, located across from City Hall, Chef AJ (a WCC graduate) continues to serve up some creative and delicious food. Come join us for a terrific interactive demonstration to hone your creative cooking skills. Our chef will teach us to make a beautiful sandwich the AJ way. Start with their famous smoked buffalo wings, followed by a toasted potato roll for crunch, topped with fresh baby spinach in extra virgin olive oil and fresh golden brown garlic, and piled high with delicious crab meat sautéed in garlic butter. The chef will show us his latest treat of fried raviolis with vodka sauce. A surprise dessert will end us on a sweet note!
Mon., Apr. 29, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee). #13201

MP Taverna,
Weekend Lunch & Kitchen Tour: Enjoy a Greek feast! Discover the importance of olive oil from chef Michael Psilakis, who has been lauded for both his traditional and reinterpreted Greek menus and is responsible for putting modern Greek cuisine on the culinary map. MP Taverna is a modern interpretation of a traditional Greek tavern situated along the Hudson River. Learn to make two delicious appetizers, grilled octopus (perhaps the most recognized Greek dish) served over a Mediterranean chickpea salad and a tomato, string bean, grilled onion, and feta salad. Our delicious lunch entrée will be a demonstration of crispy grilled branzino with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and olives. For dessert, discover the secrets of making a spiced walnut and parsnip cake. Lunch will be served at noon. Note: at the request of the proprietor, all sampling fees will be donated to the college to support continuing education in the career of food preparation.
Sat., May 4, 10:00 am-12:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee IN CASH). #13203

Thyme Restaurant,
Hands-on: Located on the main street, on the border of Yorktown Heights and Cortland Manor, is a contemporary restaurant serving great American fare. This warm and inviting setting allows you to view owner and Chef Tom Costello on any given night working in this open kitchen. He will give us an interactive demonstration and we will help to create a delicious meal starting with a spring onion custard with fried sage and English pea puree. We will continue our lesson with trout two ways: a traditional almondine preparation and a modern dish with spring ramps, fava beans, and spiced almonds sauced with a brown butter hollandaise. Next we will help to prep seasonal berry clafoutis for a sweet end to our culinary experience.
Mon., May 6, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee). #13202

Come join in the fun and learn a thing or two!

If you are a chef or proprietor of a restaurant, and are interested in participating in this program please contact the college and leave your contact information. 606-6830 x1


About Author

As a contributing blogger and the author of "Chef’s Tip", Donna Monaco Olsen recaps great cooking demonstrations from local restaurants. As the the coordinator for Westchester Community College’s Continuing Education program, named “A Taste of Westchester,” she writes the program, which offers more than 35 cooking classes each semester, and recruits chefs to do cooking demonstrations in their restaurants. She holds a full time position in the education field, and in her off time develops and contributes recipes for cookbooks. She is an avid baker and a former cake decorator who created many custom designed specialty cakes. Along with her husband, she reviews restaurants on Small Bites during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.

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