In honor of our partnership with Culinard – The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, in this regular feature Chef’s Roll highlights a featured chef or program director from Culinard’s esteemed faculties across the country. This month, Chef’s Roll talked with Chef Instructor Victor Singleton at the Culinard Campus in Greenville, South Carolina.
Chef Victor Singleton as most recently served as executive chef for Greenville Country Club and currently sits on the advisory board for the Pickens County Career Center for Culinary Arts. Chef Victor is a silver medalist in the ACF hot foods team competition and took third place in the Flavors of Alabama competition for the American Liver Foundation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Lander University and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Greenville Technical College. His education and experience have led him to Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, so he can share his knowledge and passion with future chefs.
1. What (or who) inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
That would be Mrs. Sybil Davis. She was a member’s wife at the Country Club where I started my career. She told me one night after dining with us at the club that she thought that I should look into culinary school. I did, and the next thing I know, she was one of my first instructors! My life hasn’t been the same since. Thank you Mrs. Davis!
2. Is there an instructor from your own education who stands out in your memory?
I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who can support, nurture, guide, and inspire me. When I was working in the industry that was always my chef. In particular, Chef John Thompson helped to instill a strong work ethic and a professionalism that I didn’t realize came with the position. Once I became an executive chef, it was very important to me to show that same attention to my team. It’s amazing to see some of them today and the career paths they’re on. Someone very influential after I started teaching was Chef Mark Bergstrom. He helped to show me my potential outside the constraints of the kitchen – something that’s become a huge source of fulfillment in my life.
3. What do you love most about being an educator with Culinard?
I love the one-on-one interaction with the students. The diversity of our student body allows me to reach a full range of people. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to change students’ lives and give them a trade and a skill that they can support themselves and their family with.
4. Can you walk us a through a typical day on campus?
My day starts at 6am when I make coffee for the students. After the coffee is mise en placed and set I pull my daily timeline, lesson plan, recipes, attendance roster, and any teaching material that I set for myself before I left work the day before. I write out the daily timeline for the students on the board so they can learn to organize their lives and get used to working off a list. I greet the students and answer any questions they might have about the homework from last night or the lesson for today. I have them line up as they walk into the classroom to be sure they are in their professional uniform. If I take issue, we discuss it and move on to the lecture. In our lectures, we discuss the lesson for the day and review all the recipes that we will be working on in the lab. Some days require me to demonstrate a technique or skill to the students so that they can visualize and understand the concept we will be dealing with in the lab.
Transitioning from lecture to lab takes organization so I break the class into weekly teams that each have a set of specific duties to help the class set up, sanitize, and break down the kitchen. Once we are working in the lab I stay moving, answering questions, correcting mistakes, refining techniques, and maintaining a professional atmosphere. We target 11am for a stopping point, then evaluate the food we have produced for the day. I then give them my feedback on how they performed. After the lab is broken-down, consolidated, labeled, cleaned, and sanitized we meet back in the classroom and discuss the homework for the next day and answer any questions student may have about what went wrong or right during the day. Finally, dismissal with a thank you for attending.
5. Best piece of advice you give your students?
Work hard and do whatever you can to make your boss’s job easier
6. How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Detailed. Simple ingredients. Strong techniques.
7. What is one of your proudest career moments to date?
As an executive chef: My former employees running their own kitchens.
As an educator: My students going 3000 miles away from home for 3 years on their own and returning a professional chef
As a culinarian: Being recognized as my company’s National Educator of the Year 2014
8. What was the last dish you cooked at home?
I lost the most influential woman in my life this year, so for the holidays I made my grandmothers recipe for green bean casserole for the family.