Dishing it up with COCC’s culinary instructors

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Chef Gene Fritz

Janel Harlan | The Broadside

Chef Gene Fritz

Natalie Carter
The Broadside

There is a framed picture hanging in Director and Executive Chef Gene Fritz’s office at the Cascade Culinary Institute that he has had hung in every office he has had. It is engraved with these words: “The high road to service is traveled with integrity,  compassion, and understanding… People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.”

Chef Fritz has dedicated his life to those words since he was fourteen years old.

“I started off at Burger King in Seattle, and even then I loved quick service.” From there, he later began working for the Young  Man’s Christian Association, where he met Chef Tom.

“He is the one who inspired me to pursue culinary education, I mean besides my Mom.” Fritz’s mother “was always in the kitchen cooking from scratch.” She sent him to his first cooking class when he was in the third grade at the local Parks and Recreation. “I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” said Fritz.

Soon after graduating from high school Fritz became a cook for the army, partially because he had no money to pay for college. But in 1993, still pursuing his dream of culinary education, he went on to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Business Management in 1997. A year later, Fritz also completed his Master of Education.

Fritz has been the Director of Education at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and is also in the process of completing his Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Studies & Education from the University of Colorado. He is expected to graduate in 2013.

Since starting his doctorate at the University of Colorado, he didn’t expect to end up here in Bend, Oregon. “In December I came and interviewed. The students, staff, faculty, and community members, everybody was so passionate about serving the  community’s needs. It was a real natural fit for me.”

Culinary student, Cesar Lemus, agrees that Fritz was a good fit. “There is a real feeling of customer service at the culinary institute. When making the food you have to keep them in mind because if you don’t think it tastes or looks good then your customer won’t either. Chef Fritz has really brought that sense of service to the institute” said Lemus.

“This Community College is the best place for me because everyone is focused on offering a high quality education to community members.” said Fritz.

You can contact Natalie Carter at ncarter@cocc.edu.

Chef Julian Darwin

Miranda Simone | The Broadside

Chef Julian Darwin preparing food at the new culinary building

Irene Cooper
The Broadside

The Cascade Culinary Institute’s new teaching restaurant, Elevation, housed in the new Jungers Culinary Center, officially celebrated its opening on Oct. 19, 2011. Central Oregon Community College President Dr. Jim Middleton took the opportunity to present a scholarship award in the name of Chef Julian Darwin, founder and lead instructor of the culinary program for eighteen years.

Andrea Gibson communicated via e-mail on behalf of the COCC Foundation, which awarded the endowment.

“Chef Julian Darwin recognized a need for trained culinarians and has been the leader growing the program and the vision for all
of these years. Julian is not only a talented chef and instructor but also a generous human being…and he has brought his students
up with the same generous spirit.”

According to Gibson, community members donated $50,000 toward the “Julian Darwin Culinary Scholarship Endowment Fund,” which will ensure “that each year a scholarship will be given out to a culinary student who exemplifies Julian’s kind spirit and commitment to the field of culinary arts.”

Darwin arrived in Bend via a fine-dining career forged in European restaurants and hotels. He established the culinary program
at COCC in 1993. According to Darwin, with the completion of the Jungers building, the move from Grandview means an 82% increase in learning space, with three kitchens, high-tech demonstration areas, a baking and pastry lab and the new restaurant. The program has 120 students enrolled this term, who upon completion may earn a two-year Associates Degree in Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts, as well as working-chef certification.

Darwin said he is enjoying the new building.“ We’ve really got a first-class facility.Any time I want to complain about the kitchen,
I just go back up to Grandview.”

European training gave Darwin a broad range of experience.

“It’s all a foundation, [working in] four and five-star properties. It’s all about quality.” He added, “I bring a knowledge of what the industry needs at the hotel level.”

Asked if the culinary world has changed over the years, Darwin responded, “I think the culinary [aspect] is the same. The business aspects for chefs now are customer service and a management perspective.”

If the business is different, said Darwin, “It’s not the culinary part.”

The culinary part, however, is why Darwin garners the high level of respect and admiration he does from students and peers.

“He’s a pretty exciting guy,” said Kyle G. Price, a student currently enrolled in the program. “Chef is a happy guy to be around.”

Price added that he appreciated Darwin’s accessibility, citing a recent meeting at which “He [Darwin] let me talk to him as long as I needed.”

Darwin has been a familiar figure in the community throughout his Bend career. He will once again oversee the production and service of gourmet soup at this year’s 10th annual NeighborImpact Empty Bowls event, hosted at the COCC Campus Center. NeighborImpact’s website states that Empty Bowls sells out every year. This 10th anniverary, two seatings will be available with 850 ceramic bowls donated by local potters. Darwin and his students provided 120 gallons of soup for last year’s event.
Darwin has been feeding the community long before Empty Bowls became NeighborImpact’s largest fundraiser. He has worked with Central Oregon’s Council on Aging to provide meals for seniors, and provided food for free-tothe-public soup and song lunches held at The Old Stone Church in the 1990’s.

After twenty years in the area, what keeps Darwin in Bend?

“It’s the Culinary Program.” Darwin looks forward to the further expansion of the Cascade Culinary Institute, creating partnerships within the industry, and providing the best and most thorough education for aspiring chefs.

Irene Cooper can be contacted at icooper@cocc.edu.

 

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