Lee Garrand, a Pellissippi State Community College Culinary Arts student who is scheduled to graduate this Friday, May 4, has just landed a culinary job at the prestigious Blackberry Farm. The position wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter—he earned it, through hard work and an intense but successful hands-on “interview.”
The 30-year-old student is one of 28 in the first graduating class of Culinary Arts, a collaborative venture between Pellissippi State and the University of Tennessee’s Culinary Arts Institute.
Garrand says he had some stiff competition when he vied for the position at Blackberry Farm. Some applicants came from other states and two had gone to the most prestigious culinary schools in the country, he says. Yet, it was the student from Pellissippi State who apparently impressed those conducting the interview most.
“I had a ‘working interview’ with Josh Feathers, the corporate chef at Blackberry Farm,” Garrand said. The 4,200-acre luxury resort in the Smokies attracts visitors from around the world.
Garrand was tasked with designing an entrée that would appeal to the eye and wow the discriminating palate of Feathers and sous chef Steve Ledbetter.
“There was a time limit, just like the show ‘Chopped,’” Garrand said. “It was 8:40 in the morning, and [Feathers] said he wanted to see a platter by 9:30.”
So the former Marine and law enforcement officer foraged through the restaurant’s walk-in cooler for available ingredients.
“I made a pepper-spiced wild rice and a bone-in poussin [baby chicken] breast with blanched asparagus and a raspberry cream beurre rouge [red butter sauce],” Garrand said. “He loved it.”
Garrand has been at Blackerry Farm since March.
“It’s very busy,” he said. “It’s of the highest quality and highest standards one could expect from a professional five-star restaurant.”
The soon-to-be graduate speaks highly of what he learned at Pellissippi State: “The Culinary Arts program is a great technical experience. It’s extremely informative and absolutely hands-on in preparing you for the professional culinary field.”
Garrand and his classmates spent the last two years sharpening both their kitchen and their business administration skills. Culinary Arts has a “cohort”-style format, so the students went through all the courses together, start to finish. They learned everything from ice carving to pastry, and they each interned at local restaurants and bakeries.
The class graduates with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Culinary Arts. The ceremony is at 7 p.m. at UT’s Thompson-Boling Arena.
Garrand, Kyndall Leach and Tammy Jo Johnson were named the top students.
Leach was a 16-year-old home-schooled high school graduate when she started in Culinary Arts. Now 18, she graduates Friday with a concentration in not only Culinary Arts but also Hospitality. Similar to the joint effort by classmates and sisters Tiffany Haynes and Stephanie Criswell, who just opened Emma Lou Bakery in Oak Ridge, Leach wants to open her own catering business, she hopes with a couple of her fellow students.
“I loved working in the kitchen,” Leach said of her experience. “It was always loud—that’s for sure. We had a good time. It’s like doing something with your friends that everybody loves, creating something together.”
Johnson, 46, already has a position as a hot appetizer chef at The Orangery, an upscale restaurant in Knoxville.
Students who enter Culinary Arts pursue their classroom instruction at the Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus. Tom Gaddis coordinates Culinary Arts (as well as Hospitality). A two-time graduate of UT’s Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism program, he has a doctorate in human ecology with a concentration in hotel and restaurant administration.
Gaddis received the Tennessee Hospitality Association Award in 2003 and 2008 and the Greater Knoxville Tourism Alliance’s Pauly Award in 2008. He recently was awarded the national Exemplary Leadership in Higher Education Award from the Chair Academy.
Students also spend four hours a day, three days a week, honing their skills in the state-of-the-art laboratory kitchen at UT’s Culinary Institute on Neyland Drive, just two miles away. They are taught by local chefs with American Culinary Federation certifications.
Graduates are certified through the National Restaurant Association in food production and sanitation and can apply to the ACF for certification as Certified Culinarians, the first step toward professional chef certification.
For additional information on Culinary Arts, contact Gaddis at (865) 971-5246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration is now under way for fall semester. To learn more, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.