Virginia Gazette: ‘ChefsGo 1.0 seeks to staff Williamsburg kitchens'

January 12, 2018
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Andrew Aczel joined the program ChefsGo 1.0 straight out of high school. Coming from a long line of chefs, Aczel felt drawn to the profession. While he had helped with his parent’s catering business since he was 8 years old, Aczel still was not completely sure he wanted to dedicate himself to culinary school, yet.

“I thought the ChefsGo program would be a good way to see if this is what I really wanted to do before going full-fledged into (culinary school),” Aczel said. “It’s almost like a trial culinary school.”

Having completed the program, Aczel is a pantry chef at Waypoint at 1480 Quarterpath Road, where he makes salads, appetizers and desserts.

Students learn skills needed to work in the kitchen and are set up with paid internships through ChefsGo 1.0, a culinary workforce development program at Thomas Nelson Community College.

Robin Carson, the program coordinator and an adjunct professor at Thomas Nelson, said even though she’s retired from her career in the hospitality industry, she started the program because there is a need for skilled restaurant workers in Williamsburg.

“For the longest time while I was working, I knew that there was a need for this kind of programming, and it did not exist,” Carson said. “I figured I’ve been whining and complain about it for long enough, I should be part of the solution.”

Planning the program
Carson said she planned out the program because unlike area chefs who had full-time jobs, Carson was retired and had the time to organize it. She adopted a culinary curriculum she found in Florida and brought it back to Williamsburg. The local chefs involved with the program customized it to fit their needs and then implemented it in ChefsGo.

To apply to ChefsGo, students must attend a mandatory interest meeting, submit their application by a deadline as well as be 18 years old.

After applications are submitted, potential students go on a kitchen tour with one of the chefs. Later, one or two the program’s cooperating chefs and a representative from Thomas Nelson interview the applicants in person. Then the chefs and program coordinators look over the reference sheets to decide who will be accepted...

The classes meet for 11 weeks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. The first three weeks are classroom learning on topics such as sanitation, culinary math and nutrition. The next eight weeks are hands-on kitchen work, and some field trips to observe working restaurant kitchens.

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