NCC Culinary Students Compete with Stuffed Puffs Marshmallows

Factory hosts scholarship competition

S'mores are delicious campfire, and nowadays, microwavable, treats. Marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers equals pure ooey, gooey deliciousness. But what if you wanted to put chocolate INTO a marshmallow?

That’s just what budding culinary student Michael Tierney inspired to do. When he went to turn his creation into reality, he discovered two things:  other people have tried to put chocolate into marshmallows, and that it is really, really hard to do.

Undeterred, the young chef persisted, and when Rich Thompson of Factory, a company that helps grow food, beverage, and pet health businesses,  decided to invest in his idea, the magic happened. Stuffed Puffs marshmallows were born.

Factory is a business playground where budding food companies can conceptualize, test and play with their creations.

"One of the reasons Factory is located here in Bethlehem is because of all the great colleges in the area. As executive chef of Factory, I want to be involved with Northampton Community College's culinary program," Christopher Mikovich said at a culinary competition event with NCC students held at Factory on August 12. "We are always striving to look at things differently. Bringing in the students into our Innovation Kitchen to work with our products helps us do that."

Thirteen NCC culinary students entered a recipe into the Stuffed Puffs competition. Six were chosen to move to the next round and make their dishes in Factory's Innovation Kitchen for the chance at a scholarship towards their culinary education.

Richard Thompson, managing partner of Factory, invited the students to describe their dishes in front of a room of family, friends, and people representing local businesses.

Chef Francine Marz, director of NCC's culinary program, commended the culinary students for their creativity when announcing the winners.

"We had a very difficult time picking the winners. When you think marshmallows, you don't think pork tenderloin or a breakfast sandwich. I'm really proud of my students and it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and create something very unique that has never been done before," she said.

The winners are:
First place: Luke LaMontia, "Campfire" eclairs, $1,000 scholarship
Second place:  Thomas Traupman, Duck breast with carrots and Stuffed Puffs salad, $500 scholarship
Third place:  Skylar Welsh, Sweet potatoe cheesecake with candied pecan graham cracker crust, $500 scholarship

Honorable mentions:
Gina Anderson, Graham cracker crusted pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree
Briana CAmpanelli, Black forest amaretto bundino cake
Veronica Trevino, Stuffed Puffs breakfast sandwich

LaMontia, the first place winner, was thrilled. "This is pretty crazy. I didn't expect to win."

Traupman, who will be headed to China in October to represent the U.S.  on the NCC team in a world-wide culinary competition, felt the Stuffed Puffs challenge was good practice for his trip.

Stuffed Puffs Tierney, as a chef who went through culinary school himself, understood the students' experiences. "I want to give a big thanks to NCC for coming here and supporting what we are doing. I've done this before, I've been in your shoes, and I just want you to know that I have tons of respect for what it takes to do this. Everything you put forward, all your effort, everyone did a great job."

Read more and watch the PBS39 video here.

For more information about NCC's culinary arts program, visit