Centerpieces that are good enough to eat

March 19, 1997

Vegetable bouquets

Most people can make these creations in 30 to 40 minutes


Staff Writer

This Easter, grace your table with a centerpiece that is good enough to eat.

A vegetable bouquet can make a special dinner even more festive, says Chef Michael Toth, culinary arts program instructor at Washington County Career Studies Center in Hagerstown.

The bouquets use fresh vegetables and some utensils you probably have around the kitchen.

Toth demonstrated vegetable arranging at the Flower and Garden Show at Hagerstown Junior College last weekend.

While it helps to watch someone give a demonstration, practicing is the best way to learn, he says. A book about garnishing can show the steps to follow.


Toth says he can create a vegetable bouquet in about 20 minutes. Most people probably can make one in 30 to 40 minutes, he says.

He says it takes patience, but the results are worth the effort.

"You can take a dinner party at your house to new heights," he says. "It's like doing an ice carving; you take something ordinary and make it extraordinary."

Be careful not to cut yourself, as the knives and slicers you will need to use are very sharp.

Toth has 23 juniors and seniors in his program at Career Studies Center and works with three instructional assistants. One-third of what students learn is theory, and the rest is hands-on experience, he says. That includes preparing lunch for the center's students and faculty members, as well as operating a school-based catering business.

Sometimes there is a frustration factor when working with food, Toth says.

"I always tell my students, `Don't let an inanimate object get the better of you,' " he says.

Toth, 29, is president of American Culinary Federation's Cumberland Valley chapter. He received an associate degree in culinary arts in 1987 from Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich.

Toth is in his third year of teaching at Career Studies Center. Before taking that position, he was an assistant chef at the Sheraton in Hagerstown, now known as Four Points Hotel Hagerstown. He also has worked at Airport Inn in Hagerstown.

His wife, Julie Toth, is catering manager at Four Points Hotel Hagerstown.

They met at National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where she was in catering sales and he worked in the kitchen.

Their 2 1/2-year-old son, Matthew, loves to help in the kitchen of their Hagerstown home.

"He has to help stir," he says. "I've learned to cook with one arm."

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