Nathan Camburn: Finding all the Right Ingredients

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The hair is starting to grow back on the arms of Nathan Camburn, but who knows when he’ll regain feeling in his seared fingertips.

You might say he got a little too close to the flames, but that’s the way his life has gone over the last few months at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute (PCI).

The 1999 Morenci graduate was home for a one-week break last month on his way to Colorado to begin what his school calls an externship program. By now, his lower arms be naked once again.

Camburn is working his way through the PCI program on the way to his goaling of becoming a master chef.

His career choice shouldn’t come as a great surprise. He thought about it in high school, after working as a dishwasher in Cousin-Os in Morenci and later as a cook with his mother’s Bulldog Café. After high school he worked in a Garfield’s, but then drifted off into other things.

One day it just clicked. He knew he wanted to get serious about working as a chef and he made the move.

His mother recalls earlier hints. Maybe not the time he tried to fry an egg in a plastic bowl at age four, but other forays into the kitchen.

“He’s made some creations over the years,” Suzanne said, “that most people weren’t brave enough to try. He would eat anything put before him, but he always tried to improve it. I guess we should have known then.”

Classroom

The 12-month program at PCI puts students through the mill nine hours a day, five days a week for a year, before the four-month work experience begins.

PCI is considered one of the top five culinary schools in the nation. Signing up for the program is a big commitment; tuition runs about $42,000 for the year. It’s a grueling endeavor. Thirty-five students started in Camburn’s cycle at the institute. Before too many weeks passed, the number had shrunk to 16.

Six classes cover the core knowledge for the chef:

• an introductory class that includes basic food preparation, equipment, knife skills, salads, sandwiches, organization and presentation;

• Soup, Stock, Sauce and Starch Production, covering broths, glazes and soups, and the preparation of potatoes, grains and pasta;

• Meat, Game and Poultry, addressing identification, storage, butchery, quality assessment and cooking techniques;

• Seafood and Charcuterie, including meat trimmings, curing, smoking, patés and sausage making;

• Baking and Pastry, including advanced skills in presentation and decorating. Camburn figures he gained a good 15 pounds from that class. He has fond memories of the Bavarian cream. “You could just feel yourself gaining weight.”

• Advanced Classical Cuisine. “This ties everything together,” Camburn said.

After that, there are various electives such as international cooking, French pastry, advanced pastry sculpturing, sanitation, wines and spirits, food management, menu planning and more.

Classroom and kitchen experience lead up to the practicals, where the skills are put into practice.

“It’s a test where you actually make things—perfectly,” he said.

As experience grows over the months, the chefs-in-training hone their taste buds, too, much as they do their kitchen knives.

“You build up your palette to know how a duck sauce is supposed to taste,” Camburn said, “you know how a brown sauce is supposed to taste.”

Heading out

PCI schedules a job fair to help students line up a good externship program. Nathan went for one of the best: the Broadmoor at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs. Dozens of candidates were interviewed and only 20 were chosen.

Nathan said the resort includes 11 five-star restaurants offering a wide range of opportunities for learning. Baking, banquet, line cook, pastry—he’ll be able to work his way up to sous chef.

“I hope to able to move from one restaurant to another to try the different cuisines,” he said. “I’ll work beneath a master chef who is certified in a particular cuisine. I hope to stay there a couple of years. To have the Broadmoor on your résumé is the best thing.”

Nathan has a standing offer to buy a restaurant back in Pittsburgh, but that’s probably not the direction he’ll choose. He thinks he’s gained a good overview of the business at PCI, and now he’s going for the practical experience at the Broadmoor. It’s a wide open future.

“They open the doors for you,” he said. “It’s up to you to take the initiative. I plan to open my own restaurant some day. Hopefully, it’s on the side of a mountain in Colorado.”

 

-October 15, 2003 
  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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