Culinary student enjoys creating Southern Italian cuisine

Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne
Bobby Ruehrwein of Buffalo, N.Y., grandson of Corinne Johnson of Geneseo, is enrolled in classes at Johnson and Wales University College of Culinary Arts.

Bobby Reuhrwein of Buffalo, N.Y. has been in Geneseo visiting his grandmother, Corinne Johnson, for several days. He visits her several  times a year to catch up on family news and, at the same time, get in lots of practice with his career choice.

Bobby is enrolled in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University College of Culinary Arts, Denver, Colo. and likes to practice his craft in his grandmother’s kitchen.

The 19-year-old says he has always liked to cook and began helping his mother with meals as a youngster. “My mother doesn’t like to cook very much so I began helping her,” he laughs. “When she cooked, we always had three meals a day, but nothing very fancy.”

Growing up in Buffalo, Bobby said he has always looked forward to spending time in Geneseo with his paternal grandmother. “I have lots of friends and family here so it’s always a good time,” he said.

During his junior and senior years of high school, Bobby attended a vocational cooking school and fell in love with cooking. “At the vocational school I learned the basics and fundamentals of cooking,” he said. “During my second year there I attended a culinary competition where I had to make sure I knew everything that was going on so I could take over for anyone if they needed me to.”

Having begun working as a dishwasher in a restaurant when he was 14, Bobby says he enjoys all aspects of working in the food industry. “And I totally understand the concept of cooking,” he said. “As a chef you need to watch everything that’s going on in the kitchen.”

He notes there are salad chefs and sous chefs in the restaurant business and they are responsible for certain items. “But the executive chef has his eye on absolutely everything in the kitchen,” he said. “That’s a big job.”

Having not yet decided which direction his career will take, Bobby said he could either get a two or four-year associates degree at Johnson and Wales University, or go on to eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree in food service.

“I love working on the (restaurant) line but it is so busy you really have no time for anything else,” he said. “I want to be able to think beyond the next few years and see what I want to do career-wise.”

Bobby said he loves classical French cuisine, but his favorite style of cooking is Italian.

“I worked at an Italian Bistro in New York last summer and I fell in love with it,” he said. “We served panini’s and soup for lunch and then at night we served full meals, from appetizers to entrees.” Bobby explained there was “definitely” a dinner rush in the evening.

“The bistro is owned by a friend of my mother’s and last?summer she?needed someone?to help her so she hired?me,” Bobby said. “It was just the two of us and we did all the cooking. I learned how to do everything from lasagna to gelato. We did all kinds of pastas and nightly specials.”

According to Bobby, a dinner meal usually started with appetizers like antipasto trays and then went into soups, salads and entrees. “It was more of a dining thing in the evening,” he said, adding the experience he gained was extensive. “We would serve 100 to 150 people in the evening and that wasn’t counting the lunch crowd,” he said.

“Time just flew when I was working at the restaurant. It wasn’t a chore for me to work so many hours, I loved it. I would be so excited after a busy day.” He plans on returning to work at the Bistro this summer.

Bobby said he knew from the time he began washing dishes at the age of 14 that he wanted to make a career out of food service in some way.

“I remember from the time I was in my first years of high school my dad kept asking me what I wanted to do after graduation. I finally figured out that lunch was my favorite thing in school so I realized I might have a career in food somehow,” he laughs.

The location of Johnson and Wales University entered into the equation of where Bobby attended college. Since it is in the heart of snowboarding country, that Colorado location seemed perfect to him. “I started skiing when I was four years old and then I went into snowboarding and I love it,” he said. “Colorado is awesome and I plan to stay there.”

He lists his other hobbies as frisbee golf and music. “I play bass, just for myself, and of course cooking is a big interest of mine,” he said.

After his first job as a dishwasher, Bobby worked for a while at a pizzeria where he says he learned how to multi-task. “We made maybe 200 pizzas a night there and you learned really quickly how to prioritize and get the job done,” he said.

Feeling that his career choice will offer him countless opportunities, Bobby philosophizes that chefs are needed on cruise ships, at resorts, at restaurants and at bistros, to name a few. “Food will always be there and the food business will always be around. Everyone has to eat,” he said. “So I think it is a good career to get into. Food could take me around the world, maybe I’ll take some classes overseas someday.”

Since his favorite food to prepare is Italian, Bobby said he can usually be found cooking some kind of pasta. “I love the Southern Italy-style of cooking, with the use of olive oil,” he said.

Bobby Ruehrwein shares some of his favorite recipes.

Risotto with percini mushrooms

Bobby Ruehrwein

4 T. olive oil

1/4 C. chopped onions

1 clove chopped garlic

1 carrot, finely chopped

4 oz. porcini mushrooms, fresh, sliced

1 lb. arborio or camaroli rice

1/2 C. white wine, dry

2 qt. vegetable or chicken broth

2 T. butter, unsalted

3 T. parmesan cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

Method of preparation:

Gather all ingredients and equipment. Heat olive oil in appropriate size pan.

Add onions and saute until translucent, then add carrots.

After a couple of minutes, add garlic and mushrooms. Saute only briefly.

Add rice to pan and saute rice for about 2 minutes.

Add white wine to the pan and reduce wine.

Add vegetable or chicken broth by 1-2 C. intervals. Make sure to stir constantly.

Continue the process until rice  is cooked. This should take about 25-30 minutes. Take caution not to overcook the rice.

Add butter and cheese until rice is creamy.

If rice is gummy, add a little cream or milk.

Salt and pepper to taste. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take away.

Tuna salad

Bobby Ruehrwein

2-5.5 oz. cans tuna, packed in water

1 Granny Smith apple, washed and diced

1/2 C. walnuts, ground into small pieces

1/4 C. celery, washed and diced

1/4 C. onion, peeled and diced

3 T. mayonnaise

Method of preparation:

Gather all ingredients together.

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients, except mayonnaise.

Add mayonnaise slowly. Remember you can always add more, but you can not take mayonnaise away.

Enjoy tuna salad in a tuna melt with provolone cheese or simply between two slices of bread.

Grilled shrimp kabobs with roasted

pineapple salsa

Bobby Ruehrwein

30 each peeled and deveined shrimp (21-25 per pound)

2 sweet red peppers, washed, cut into 1-1/2” dice

10 wooden skewers

1/4 C. lemon juice

1 T. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Roasted pineapple salsa:

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, sliced and roasted at 400 degrees until fork tender and golden

2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, peeled, seeds removed, finely minced

1 C. onion, peeled, finely diced

3 T. cilantro, washed, dried, chopped

2 limes, juice reserved

1 T. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Method of preparation:

Soak skewers in warm water and preheat grill and oven.

Gather all ingredients.

Prepare pineapple salsa by combining all ingredients. Hold at room temperature until serving.

Skewer three shrimp with three pieces of red pepper, alternating. Drizzle lemon, oil,  salt and pepper over shrimp.

Grill shrimp kabobs and serve with pineapple salsa.

Yield: 10 servings