Beverly Hills chef/Williamsport native to headline visiting chef event

An alumna, touted by a Los Angeles publication as one of that city’s top chefs, will be the next Visiting Chef at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Chef Kristi Ritchey, who graduated from Penn College with a degree in culinary arts technology in 2002, is executive chef for Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, an organic, fast-casual restaurant with locations in Beverly Hills, Century City and Costa Mesa, Calif.

The Visiting Chef Series provides students who are pursuing associate and bachelor’s degrees in baking and pastry arts, culinary arts and hospitality management to work alongside renowned chefs. Under the visiting chef’s guidance, the students produce a grand meal that raises money for scholarship funds. The Fall 2013 Visiting Chef Dinner will be held Nov. 8.

A native of the Williamsport area (she was raised in Linden before graduating from Warrior Run High School), Ritchey’s career began as a job at DiSalvo’s Restaurant. When owner Vince DiSalvo saw her potential, he urged her to pursue a professional career in the culinary arts.

DiSalvo took her to meet the late William C. Butler, then dean of Penn College’s School of Hospitality. The duo gave Ritchey a tour of the facilities and prodded her to enroll in the culinary arts technology associate-degree major.

“My first day of class, chef Trometter (Mary G. Trometter, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts) made me feel very, very comfortable, and I never looked back,” she said.

After completing her degree, Ritchey relocated to California’s Napa Valley, where renowned chef Jan Birnbaum – a contact provided to her by Penn College’s Fall 2002 Visiting Chef Todd Downs – helped opened doors, and she landed a position at Restaurant Pinot Blanc, the area’s flagship restaurant under the Los Angeles-based Patina Group.

From Pinot Blanc, she moved to the Patina Group’s Eat at the Desert in Palm Springs, and soon after she was asked to assist with opening the company’s Eat on Sunset.

After the opening, she was sought after by entrepreneurs Sandy Sachs and Robin Gans, who asked her to come on board as executive chef for their first Los Angeles restaurant project, Murano Restaurant and Lounge. While at Murano, Ritchey, then only 24 years old, was named one of LA’s Top Chefs by LA Direct Magazine.

In 2008, Ritchey joined friend and former Patina co-worker Jonathan Rollo with the opening of his first restaurant, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop in Beverly Hills. In 2011, she competed in the premiere episode of Food Network’s “Extreme Chef.” As executive chef at Greenleaf, she assists in developing many key items on the restaurant’s menu and is intensely dedicated to crafting the ideal menu to support a healthy lifestyle. Her own weight-loss triumph was featured in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, as well as NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

“Eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a diet,” says Ritchey, who thrives in a kitchen that combines her passion for creating unique gourmet dishes with her desire to combine those tastes with a healthy lifestyle.

Tickets for the five-course Visiting Chef Dinner, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant, are $100. Net proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Penn College Foundation General Scholarship Fund. To reserve seats, call the Special Events Office at Penn College at 570-320-5229 or email specialevents@pct.edu .

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Last Updated October 17, 2013