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VA Western Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program Hosts First Culinary Arts Salon

Virginia Western Community College’s Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program recently hosted its first Culinary Arts Salon with funding support from the Virginia Western Education Foundation. The event, an American Culinary Foundation (ACF) sanctioned cooking competition held on April 10, gave students a first-hand experience alongside the high-level international chefs at the Claude Moore Educational Complex in downtown Roanoke.

Virginia Western faculty, Chefs Ted Polfelt and John Schopp, worked through the ACF for sanctioning of the event, which followed campus COVID safety protocols. Polfelt, who was named the Educational Foundation’s Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair in 2019, organized the competition.

“I applied for the endowment fund through the Foundation as a means to give Virginia Western students an opportunity to compete without traveling — while also offering our students first-hand vision of the high-level chefs who compete throughout the country in ACF competitions,” Polfelt said. “We hope the Salon will become an annual event at our state-of-the-art facilities at Claude Moore.”

The competition included categories for Hot Food, Cold Plated Dessert, Cold Food platter displays and sculptures. Three students from Virginia Western’s Culinary Arts Program were among the competitors, which included chefs from Turkey, Detroit, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Chicago and Washington, DC. Virginia Western’s student participants were: Daniel Lemons, Josh Wasky and Chase Cochran, all of whom won bronze medals. Chef Polfelt also competed and won a silver medal.

Judges for the competition were Chef Alan Neace from Cincinnati, Ohio, Chef Michael Matarazzo from Charlottesville, Va., and Chef Sarah Deckert from the U.S. Army, stationed in Washington, DC.

Culinary Arts students volunteered with the event preparation, set-up and cleanup while maintaining COVID-safe protocols and compliance.

“The students were inspired, got to network with chefs from around the country and are talking about competing in the next one,” Polfelt said.

Organizers expressed thanks to Culinary Arts adjunct instructor and alumnus Greg Moran, who worked behind the scenes to help chefs, students and judges and to ensure the Salon ran flawlessly. “Greg is always willing to step up and volunteer his time to make the chefs, the program and our students shine,” Polfelt said.

The endowed chair is named for the late Don Smith, who led Roanoke Electric Steel and was a Director Emeriti of the Educational Foundation. Steel Dynamics Inc., formerly Roanoke Electric Steel, established the endowed chair in 2006 with a $100,000 gift to honor Smith’s longtime leadership. Smith was president of Roanoke Steel from 1985 to 2004 and worked for the company 49 years.

The Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair is intended to honor an outstanding instructor who advances the understanding of business management principles in his or her coursework, regardless of academic discipline. The honored teacher may use the funds to enhance the quality of his or her curriculum, facilities or instruction in any way he or she deems necessary.

Polfelt’s endowed chair appointment spans the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. He is the third recipient of the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair, following Alexander Scott, an associate professor of Spanish, and Cristin Barrett, an assistant professor of mathematics.

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