The start of the school year often signifies a new beginning. That goes for instructional and support staff as well as students. For ChefsGO, Thomas Nelson’s Workforce Development program for those interested in the culinary arts, it is no different.
“Robin and I and Allison are very excited about the opportunities that are afforded our students,” said Holly Herrick, ChefsGO lead instructor, referencing program founder Robin Carson and instructor Allison Patterson.
There’s added significance to the word “new” this year, too.
“New kitchen, new chefs, new students,” Herrick said, along with a new schedule.
The program, which began in 2017, traditionally runs from early February through August. Classroom instruction is followed by a paid internship with a local restaurant. That allowed students to help the chefs in the busy summer months.
“The initial thinking doing the classes in February was with the tourism season absolutely in mind because the chefs need the help in the kitchen (from May-August),” Herrick said.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc with vacation schedules, the industry probably will need help year-round.
“I think it’s going to be a continuing situation,” Herrick said. “I don’t think we’re going to be seeing a traditional tourist season here as much as maybe in the past, at least for the short term, because everyone is just itching to get out.”
With that in mind, ChefsGO is holding registration now (application deadline is May 28). Classes will be held Aug. 2-Oct. 21, with the internship running from Oct. 22-Jan. 3. Graduation will be Dec. 15.
“We’re doing this one because we can, and also because the chefs really need the help,” Herrick said. “Of course with COVID, everything is turned around.”
The program will be held in a new facility also, at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, which has a bigger kitchen along with more storage, classroom space and amenities.
A number of new chefs, along with some past participants, are offering instructions and internships, which means more opportunities for students.
“As wonderful as it is working in a traditional fine-dining kitchen … some of these other kitchens have more industrial requirements and they have additional opportunities for our students to work in,” Herrick said.
She noted some places have a bread-baking area or poolside dining. There will be nine or 10 types of kitchens for students to rotate through and see how they differ.
“It’s really the best kind of training there is, in my opinion,” Herrick said.
The program attempted to have classes last year, beginning in February. After about four or five weeks of classes, Herrick and the others had hoped to suspend the program, then resume it later in the year. That didn’t work out, but a few of the students who entered the program a year ago are back for this year. There is a limit of 15 students, and Herrick wouldn’t be surprised if there is a full class.
“We’ve had a number of applications come in from new students that are very interested in getting into the culinary industry, and opening their own businesses,” said Herrick, who joined the College in summer 2019 and hasn’t yet had a graduating class. “There’s just a lot of interest out there.”
If that interest continues, Herrick said it’s possible another session will start in February 2022.
“It’s my hope we will do two sessions a year,” she said. “We would love to be able to do that.”
For more information on the program, or to register, go to https://tncc.edu/programs/chefsgo-10-workforce-credential, or email Herrick at email@example.com.
Previous/returning chefs: Chef Kevin Early, Windsor Meade; Chef Mark Florimonte, Director of Catering, William & Mary; Chefs Hans Schadler, Executive Chef Owner, Waypoint Seafood & Grill; Chef Stephen Perkins, Waypoint Seafood & Grill; Chef Nancy Geddes, Waypoint Seafood & Grill.
New chefs: Chef John Mantor, Williamsburg Landing; Executive Chef Tony Rizzo, Two Rivers Country Club, Governor's Land.