Charlie Gipe is the Executive Chef at Hershey Entertainment.

That’s where Chef Charlie Gipe comes in. The Hershey Entertainment and Resorts executive chef has been tasked with feeding approximately 1,000 performers, crew members, volunteers and farmers during the preparations before and the day of Farm Aid, which is Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. Donations for the food, including 4,000 pounds of dairy products, are coming in from farms and grocery stores across the area. All ingredients are fresh and organic. Many are vegan.

Amid moving the food and equipment to the Giant Center, Gipe took a moment to talk about Farm Aid preparation and which performer he’s most excited to cook for.

You’re using students from Lebanon County Career and Technology Center as part of your kitchen crew. Did you hand-pick any of them to be your assistants?

“I’m using the whole class. It’s the pastry arts class and also the culinary arts class. There’s 26 to 30 students coming.

“I went down last week and went over the whole menu with them and talked about our sustainable agriculture in the area. In Hershey, we do a lot of that. We have a whole restaurant that does that, called the Harvest. We try to do everything that’s grown and sourced out to farms that are locked into this [method]. They’re people who have been with a family farm or a local farm and they’ve been growing this way for years. And also a couple new farms that are starting up, and that’s kind of neat.”

Are you nervous at all to have so many students in the kitchen?

“I have a teaching degree, also. It’s an opportunity for us to take young culinarians and give them this opportunity, and to me that’s just fabulous.

“It gives them the opportunity to network with local chefs and also the opportunity to meet new people and do things they probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in a classroom.”

Is there a certain dish the students are excited to make?

“The neatest part of this thing is that they just started school. They were a week in before I got to speak them. By [Tuesday] morning at 8 o’clock, they will have probably picked up a knife four or five times. They’ve learned their sanitations, how to wear the uniform and how to do basic cuts.

“This will be a good indoctrination for some of them into the culinary field. They’ll probably not touch these kind of products for the rest of the time at school — I mean just the quantities of them.

“I’ve been going over the math with them. Cooking isn’t so much an issue, but baking is. Baking is a science. You can’t take a recipe and times it by 10. There’s a difference…it makes a huge difference with baking. This will give them a huge opportunity to learn those things.”

Is there a particular performer you’re excited to cook for?

“I’ve been a Willie [Nelson] fan forever. I’ve seen Willie 50 different times throughout my years. I’ve cooked for him once or twice before. But, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him, yet.”

When you were creating the menu, were you going, “We have to put this in, Willie will like this?”

“You know his sister has a cookbook. She was very big into the salad bar things. So I’m sure I will have something on the salad bar he’ll enjoy. And I know he likes to eat local offerings. You know, you don’t eat what you’re used to but try something that’s a little different. I know he’s done the Pennsylvania Dutch thing before and he liked it.”

What do you think will be the biggest surprise on the menu for those unfamiliar with Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine?

“Probably the pot pies. They’re going to wonder where the pie is, the shell is.

“Going to culinary school, probably the two most unique things that I had taken from my culture, being from the central Pennsylvania area, was chicken pot pie. I did that for my first-term final. They wanted to know where the shell was. I had to sit down and do a class for the most esteemed chefs at the time because they wanted to know how I made it. They nicknamed it slippery pie.

“The other was Lebanon bologna. My car was packed with bologna every time I went to school for a year. I probably did four or five different demonstrations on how to make it.”

Did you have to drive with the windows down?

(Laughing) “I love the smell of it. I could eat double-smoked Lebanon bologna all the time. I was born and raised on that.”

This story has been updated to clarify the ingredients which are being used in the food.


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