By Marianne E. Weaver
The aroma of chocolate greets visitors as they step out of the elevator. To the right, just behind a set of double glass
doors, waitstaff in crisp white shirts and long black aprons huddle, laying out their service plan. This place is not a four-star restaurant. It’s the fourth floor of Woodbridge’s Stratford University and home of its culinary arts department.
“We have had phenomenal gourmet meals here,” said Joanne Clark, president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the American Business Women’s Association. The group meets in Stratford’s private dining room monthly.
Brett Chappell, an adjunct professor of dining service, oversees the luncheons, which are planned, prepared and served by students. “The students learn the importance of good service and that it is taking care of the customer,” he said.
He added that the public is invited to dine for both lunch and dinner at Stratford. Although the exact menu is not publicized, guests can expect a three-course meal, either served or buffet style, for less than $25 a person.
Stratford’s culinary arts program offers both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs, available for both day and night students. The degrees offered are:
- Bachelor of Arts in hospitality or culinary management;
- Associate of Applied Science in advanced culinary arts, baking and pastry arts or hotel and restaurant management; and
- Advanced Culinary Arts Professional Diploma.
“Most of our students are working full-time,” said Noree Hatheway, Stratford University associate program director,
culinary arts and hospitality management. “The associate’s degree is 90 credit hours and the bachelor’s is 180.” Students, she added, can qualify for federal and military financial aid.
Junior Debbie Supprey, who balances classes with her job at Windows Catering Company in Alexandria, Va., said, “When we leave here, we know we are prepared for the culinary world.”
Classmate Matthew Harris, a sophomore who is a baker at Panera, said professors eagerly pass their knowledge to the next generation of chefs. “They teach us how to make our food unique.”
Adjunct Professor James Kirby teaches a wide array of those classes. He’s also a full-time farmer. Previously a chef at Park Hyatt Washington’s Blue Duck Tavern and the Inn at Little Washington, he mixes his experience as a farmer with his 20 years of experience as a chef.
“When I was at the Inn, I ordered of the produce and developed an understanding of what is fresh and what is not,” he said. “As a chef you pay attention to where your food comes from.”
The appreciation of fresh foods is one he strives to pass on to his students, through one of his favorite courses – entrée production. “It is never the same,” he said. “I teach according to the seasons.”
Mike Lampros, chef/owner of Giorgio’s in Montclair, graduated from Stratford in 1996. “The whole reason I went to culinary school was so I could open a restaurant,” he said. “Stratford gives you a good base to build upon. You learn many culinary techniques. And, they have a very good business program.” Sixteen years after opening his Greek/Italian restaurant, he is still connected to Stratford, occasionally bringing students on for internships and externships. “They were all very good,” he said. “I occasionally see some of them and they are doing very well.” Hatheway said current students are completing externships at Firebirds and Wegmans in Woodbridge, and the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.
Go to www.stratford.edu/pages/fine-dining for a complete listing of monthly events or to place a reservation.
Marianne Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.