During his years as a chef, Professor Mark Cosgrove, Chairperson of Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts at County College of Morris (CCM), catered to clientele in such varied locations as the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Central Park in New York, a Japanese temple in Hawaii, a pleasure cruise and beaches from Florida to Cape Cod.
"It’s a field that thrives on glamour," says Cosgrove. "When you cater an event, you cross over from being the labor to being the entertainer."
He says food culture has changed over the past several decades. "Americans are becoming more interested in how their food is prepared." Where there used to be just a few cooking shows on television, there are now entire television channels dedicated to food, with culinary competitions.
Cosgrove developed an interest in cuisine during his childhood outside of Paris. When he returned to the United States, he noticed people had a different approach to food. He began cooking at home and enjoyed it. Following a degree in business administration from LaSalle University, he attended the Culinary Institute of America. That launched a career in corporate catering.
One catering event he fondly recalls combined two of his loves – food and scuba diving. "I prepared food for a cruise that went out to the Andrea Doria shipwreck," says Cosgrove. In addition to feeding the 15 people on board, he also had a chance to dive down and explore the ill-fated Italian cruise liner that sunk in 1956. "It was a nice blend of work and pleasure," he says.
One of the most challenging events he oversaw took place at CCM. Every year, his students used to cater an event for the guidance counselors. One year, when the Student Community Center was being renovated, they were left without a kitchen. The students had to cook on the side of the hill next to the Learning Resource Center with large pots on gas grills. The wind kept blowing and misdirecting the gas jets, but through perseverance, the meal was finally prepared.
"It worked out. We had lunch that day," says Cosgrove. "And there was a happy ending. When the Student Community Center reopened, one of the renovations was a new professional teaching kitchen for us!"