Matt Prater shopped around before he selected a culinary program. One college was, in his opinion, overpriced. Another wasn’t well known. The Culinary Institute of the Carolinas at Greenville Technical College offered everything he was looking for including accessible chefs, educational quality, and scholarship assistance.
After completing the program, he transferred his credits to the University of South Carolina, graduating in 2014. From there, it’s on to an internship with Homegrown Hospitality Group, an opportunity for which he feels well prepared. “The program was phenomenal, and I would and do recommend it to anyone who has a passion for food, and may want to make a career out of it,” he said.
Terryl “TJ” Dingle came to the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas after making the decision to pursue his passion. The chef instructors thoroughly prepared him for the field, but they gave him more, instilling in him the desire to do everything possible to achieve his goals and dreams. Now he feels well prepared for the world of work and currently serves as a line cook/pastry prep for The Cliffs and as a lab assistant for the Culinary Institute. “I feel as if the Culinary Staff taught me very well,” he said. They taught me to fully understand what it means to be a ‘chef,’ which is also a cook, teacher, friend, mentor, counselor, electrician, and more.”
Windell Brand could have gotten his culinary education somewhere else. If he had, he said, he would have settled. Instead, the associate degree at Greenville Technical College required that he learn about knife cuts, balancing flavors, plating, accounting, food storage, table settings, and much more. These skills, he said, have helped him succeed at Soby’s and are leaving him well prepared as he moves on to Commanders Place in New Orleans. “I don’t think I could have asked for better schooling than I got at The Culinary Institute of the Carolinas,” he said. “I don’t look at the instructors as instructors anymore. I look at them as friends of mine – friends I can call when I need advice about the industry or something personal.”
Adam Hall had worked a series of odd jobs and served in the military, not really sure which direction to take with his career, when he walked into a restaurant in Greenville - Moretti's Pizza - and stumbled upon what would become his future.
The owner, Peter Morettin, gave him a chance, Hall says, and since it's a small business, that chance was something like being asked to be part of the family. Eight years later, Hall has not only stuck with it, he's expanded his skills by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas at Greenville Technical College, where he'll soon complete an associate degree. When he graduates, he hopes to venture off, possibly moving into some of the new businesses his boss is considering.
Finding the right field and getting the education to succeed in it will open the door to lots of opportunities. "You can be an entrepreneur, and it's just a matter of how far you want to take it," Hall said.
At Greenville Technical College, his favorite classes have been the food production courses. Soon, he'll take advanced baking, and he looks forward to taking advantage of some of the new equipment available at the Northwest Campus. "The new facility is a whole new experience," he said. "Advanced Baking is definitely something to look forward to."
Hall, who realized his potential in the culinary field a little later in life than some of his classmates, enjoys having a range of ages in the classroom. "The younger generation's pretty sharp," he said. "You have to be on your toes all the time."
The Food Network fan is grateful to have found his field with the Morettin family. "I love to be in the kitchen," he said. "The possibilities are unlimited."
Nate Mercer graduated from Greenville Technical College's Culinary Institute of the Carolinas on May 6. One week later, he was hired as sous chef for Azia, a fine dining restaurant featuring global fusion or the blending of exotic flavors from around the world.
While landing a great job just a week out of school might seem easy, Mercer worked hard for the position, which he says is a natural progression. Starting at the Piedmont Club in Spartanburg, Mercer realized he had a talent with food that led him to enroll at Greenville Technical College. While a student, he worked full-time, first at Restaurant O and later at Devereaux's. On the job, he gained experience as a line cook while in the classroom, he earned a 4.0 grade point average.
The job at Azia came about when the restaurant contacted Culinary Institute Department Head Chef Alan Scheidhauer, who suggested Mercer as an excellent candidate. Mercer didn't think he would get the job he wanted so quickly after graduating.
"I didn't think it would come that quickly after getting out of the program, but it's college that works, and I'll be a poster boy for that for the rest of my life," he said.
Mercer said while in school, he benefited not just from one mentor, but from three, all of whom are chef instructors at Greenville Technical College. "Their names are Chef Mark Bergstrom, Chef Patrick Wagner, and Chef Alan Scheidhauer. Those guys are incredible," Mercer said. "They'll teach you anything they know, and they push you and challenge you."
Mercer said he was privileged to work under Chef Jesse Thompson, a fellow graduate from the Greenville Technical College Culinary Program, and also chef de cuisine Steven Greene of Devereaux's, who Mercer described as an unbelievable culinary artist.
Having met one goal he set for himself of graduating from culinary school, Mercer now plans to work toward longer-term plans.
"At Azia, I'll get to do the administrative side of being a chef. I understand techniques of cooking. Now it's time to control food and labor costs, set schedules, purchase food and do receiving, and oversee the other employees. This is a great stepping stone for me," he said. Mercer hopes within five years to step into an executive chef position and 10 to 15 years down the road, into his own business.
Mercer feels confident in his foundation as he begins work. "I wish every person my age that's interested in cooking could go to this program," he said. "It's awesome and for the price of it, compared to Johnson and Wales or whatever, you cannot beat it with a bat. I've gotten a solid education."