Professors prepare benefit dinner

Geneseo faculty, students, alumni and townspeople worked together to serve up a 10-course meal at the 28th annual Marco Polo Dinner on March 2 at St. Mary's Parish Center.

The brainchild of Distinguished Teaching Professor of History Emeritus Bill Cook, the Marco Polo Dinner chronicles Marco Polo's journey through Europe and Asia with an array of homemade, professor-prepared dishes.

Each year, all proceeds from the dinner are donated to Covenant House, an organization that provides shelter and advancement programs for at-risk and homeless youths in cities throughout the United States.

While ticket prices for the culinary journey were steep - $40 for general admission and $25 for students - Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Gary Towsley said the dinner raised approximately $2,500.

The community members who collaborate to prepare the dinner, also called the Geneseo Philanthropic Chefs, provide their labor and cooking prowess, as well as the ingredients for their dishes, for free.

Towsley said that his traditional contribution to the dinner is overseeing the chefs in the kitchen and cooking his penne alla napoletana coi peperoni freschi, or penne with red peppers and basil, representative of Italy.

“I look forward to it every year. It's mass confusion in the kitchen,” Towsley said.

Other chefs for this year's dinner included lecturer of English Glenn McClure representing Italy with antipasti and India with dahi murgh, Cook representing the Mediterranean with roast pork and Italy with gelati, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Olympia Nicodemi representing the Mediterranean with Greek carrots with fennel and ginger and Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Ron Herzman representing China with hot and sour soup.

While Towsley said current students typically work as servers during the dinner, junior Missy Vetrano and senior Jackie Vetrano, sisters, contributed to cooking the meal along with their parents. They worked with McClure and his family to prepare the antipasti dish.

“It was really nice to kind of cook the entire day and then to be able to bring it to the dinner to have people enjoy it,” Missy Vetrano said.