Classes for budding chefs in the Williamsburg area start next month, and the hope is a program run through Thomas Nelson Community College will help bring and keep more of them in the area.
The program, called ChefsGO 1.0, gives students the chance to learn how to turn culinary skills into their livelihood. By combining classroom instruction with on-the-job training, students will be well on their way to restaurant career.
The Williamsburg Economic Development Authority and James City County Economic Development Authority each agreed in January to provide one-time $5,000 grants to the ChefsGO 1.0 program to help the students cover the cost of tuition.
"It's something I think is really needed in this area," said Williamsburg Economic Development Authority vice chairman Rick Overy, at an January meeting. "That's especially given the hospitality and tourism industry here. It's not just for the hotels, but also the the retirement community."
"This new program will help local restaurants significantly," said Adam Steely, who opened the Blue Talon Bistro in 2004, and is the chairman of the Willamsburg Economic Development Authority. "Hiring and retaining personnel is the key issue for restaurateurs. We need trained and motivated staff to achieve a consistently excellent product."
By providing four scholarships into the program, the Williamsburg Area Restaurant Association is also placing some support in the program.
It will choose one student each from Greater Williamsburg's four high schools - Bruton, Jamestown, Warhill and Lafayette - for a $1,000 stipend that will help pay tuition.
"I am thrilled that so many Williamsburg area chefs have signed on as instructors," said chef Hans Schadler of Waypoint Seafood and Grill, in a news release. "This confirms that they see the promise of this program and are prepared to invest their time in sharing their expertise in teaching and supervision."
Classes begin in March. Once they end in May, students move into a mentorship with local chefs where they'll get more on-the-job training. For more information, visit tncc.edu/programs/culinary-arts or call 757-825-2937.
Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.