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WVU Tech is cooking up something special

It has been an exciting year for the culinary program and students at West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech).

The future is bright for Golden Bears and the region. “We are excited for our current and future culinary students and are working to build connections and pathways to great careers – here in West Virginia and beyond,” shared Dr. T. Ramon Stuart, President of WVU Tech.

A group of culinary students in their white jackets stand in a line posing with their certificates.

Most recently, seven students were invited to Nemacolin for a culinary competition where they were paired up with professional chefs from the resort to compete head-to-head against their fellow classmates for scholarship awards and bragging rights.

The culinary competition was a collaboration among the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics Hardy Family Hospitality and Tourism Management program, WVU Tech culinary program and Nemacolin resort, resulting from the partnership created by a generous $7M investment in the Chambers College from Nemacolin and the Hardy Family announced in November 2023.

The competition was planned and executed by 15 business students in the event planning class led by Frank DeMarco, Teaching Associate Professor in the Chambers College.

“The generosity of Nemacolin resort and the Hardy Family has created invaluable experiential learning opportunities in the luxury hospitality space for our Chambers College and WVU Tech students,” said DeMarco. “Events like the culinary competition showcases the power of our brand partnership and the market-ready skills it is creating for our students.”

Guests from all over the region - including food bloggers, influencers and representatives from WVU and WVU Tech - gathered to celebrate the collaboration and watch the newest crop of culinarians in action. The WVU Tech students were mentored by the Nemacolin team during their visit, including Resort Executive Chef Christine Hazel.

“The Nemacolin Culinary Team takes great pride in our mentorship program. We felt honored to get to partner with the rising stars of the WVU and WVU Tech programs,” said Hazel. “Teaching and coaching young culinarians are an integral part of our daily routine here at Nemacolin, and we strive to share our mentality of always being able to pivot. As a judge, I was truly impressed by the aptitude, hunger for learning, and exceptional teamwork of all the students. Practical experience in the culinary industry is invaluable, and we look forward to continuing to partner with WVU and growing the potential of our future chefs.”

As the students reflected on their experience during the competition, they had some words of wisdom that they wanted to share with their classmates who will participate in the event in the future, and insights that they’ll take into their own careers. They learned through this experience that anything can be thrown your way, the importance of receiving and applying feedback. Most importantly, they were reminded that even when you’re stressed, it’s important to keep a cool head and to have fun.  

While they were nervous about preparing meals in front of guests as the clock ticked toward the buzzer at zero, the student competitors all shared how welcomed they felt by the Nemacolin team throughout the competition and their entire visit.

“The best part of the experience was working with the other chefs, especially Eduardo [Quintana, Chef de Cuisine],” said student participant Chase Savilla of Eleanor, West Virginia. Sonson Stauffer of Haiti and Winfield, West Virginia agreed.

Chase and Sonson have a lot that they agree on – one being where they chose to pursue a culinary education. Chase and Sonson attended high school together and have been encouraging each other and their classmates throughout their two years studying at WVU Tech.

Chase was the Chef’s Choice winner at the culinary competition and Sonson was the People’s Choice winner.

Sonson is one of three graduating seniors who accepted positions at Nemacolin for their externship after graduation. Sonson along with Madison Miller of Clay County, West Virginia and William Hiner of Greenville, West Virginia will gain experience in a variety of kitchens throughout the property during their externships.

Chase will head to 1010 Bridge to work with Chef Paul Smith, James Beard Award Finalist, and the 1010 team. Smith is excited about the ongoing work to build a pipeline of culinarians in West Virginia.

A culinary student stirs food in a skillet.

In January , a partnership with Smith was announced to help build a pipeline of culinarians in the region.

“We are using the network of chefs and restaurateurs as a conduit from the academic kitchen to industry kitchens,” shared Smith. “We focus on sense of urgency, cleanliness, mise en place and professionalism. We want to ensure that students gain the skills they need and get a taste of what’s to come.”

“We are producing culinarians who are working with internationally acclaimed chefs and restaurants,” stated Noor. “We value the relationships with partners at Nemacolin and Chef Paul Smith and these connections are of a great benefit to our program, institution, industry, and, most importantly, our students.”

More information about the WVU Tech culinary program can be found on the WVU Tech website.

See more photos from the competition here.