Over the years Larissa Ealy has served the Lebanese community as a firefighter and cook.
The 19-year-old native of Lebanon recently embarked on a 16-day training trip through Italy.
“Italy was the best experience of my life,” said Ealy. “I was accompanied by Executive Chef Mary Trometter. Sixteen other students and I got to travel to regions of Italy like Venice, Rome, Nettuno, Asti and Parma, learning about Italian cuisine and culture and taking cooking classes with Italian chefs at culinary institutes.”
Between making pasta in Ferrara and baking bread in Asti, Ealy tried pizza, seafood, aged cheeses and balsamic, and gelato.
In mid-May, Ealy graduated from Pennsylvania College of Technology, where she earned her degree in Baking and Pastry.
Ealy named chef Todd Keeley and chef Charles Niedermyer II as two teachers she truly admired.
“Chef Todd has provided so much industry knowledge and knowledge of owning his own pastry shop, and Chef Charles has provided tons of knowledge about working for a hospitality company as a senior pastry chef,” she said.
In addition to his interactions with Ealy in his teaching and consulting roles, Niedermyer of State College accompanied a group of Penn College students, including Ealy, to the Kentucky Derby in early May.
“I’m the cooking teacher who takes the students to Kentucky every year. So I had the pleasure of taking Larissa to where we cook for tens of thousands of guests,” Niedermyer said.
“This year was my 13th Kentucky Derby,” he continued. “Penn College has a long history of supporting premium food service. We provide culinary, baking and service for the areas of the premium suites, giving students the opportunity to work on a truly grand scale. We call this ‘mega events’.”
In addition to cooking and baking with hundreds of pounds of ingredients, students were able to experience the fashion and history of the event.
In addition to Penn College, Ealy attended the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center. During her time there, she was mentored by Executive Chef Brian Peffley and Executive Chef Robert Corle Jr.
“My favorite moments in the kitchen have been in Chef Peffley’s class. Most mornings, Chef came early with another student and I to make soft pretzels,” Ealy said. “He always went above and beyond to ensure we had all the knowledge he could offer us.”
Ealy worked as a bakery clerk for BG’s Value Market from the age of 14 until she went to college at 18. She has since worked as a baking intern for Lancaster Cupcake and as a deli clerk for Weis Markets.
The inspiration behind her passion for the culinary arts, which later fueled her career in the field, can be found in her family tree.
“I would say my favorite memory of my grandma and me [in the kitchen] would be if we were baking cookies,” Ealy said. “She turned away and I thought the cookies looked dry so I turned on the sink and ran them into the cookie dough.”
Ealy continued: “[My grandma] was so patient with me and wasn’t mad. We laughed about it later.”
When she’s not in the kitchen, Ealy is a firefighter at Bunker Hill Fire Company, where she’s volunteered since 2016.
Ealy’s family has played a significant role in her career both as a chef and as a third generation firefighter.
“I just want to say that I have the best support system there is,” said Ealy. “A big thank you to my mom Patti Kreitzer, my sister Lyndsay Ealy and my grandparents Richard and Patricia Kreitzer, who have always had my back and pushed me to do my best.”
Upon graduation, Ealy said, “My plans for the future are to follow my passion and work at a well-known resort or hotel company somewhere in the United States.”
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we will do our best to get in touch with you.
Do you support local news?
If you think Lebanon County needs independent, quality journalism, you should consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support flows directly into stories like these, and you’ll help ensure our community will have a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership here and join now.