NEW CULINARY DIRECTOR BRINGS LOVE OF FOOD, TEACHING TO GTCC
By Carla Kucinski
JAMESTOWN — On the second floor of the Joseph H. Koury Hospitality Careers Center, Albert Schmid is settling into his new office and new role at Guilford Technical Community College.
Wearing a crisp, white chef’s coat, he stands in the middle of half-opened cardboard boxes, containing autographed cookbooks from culinary heroes such as Julia Child and Paul Prudhomme. He opens the flap of each book to share the inscription and lights up as if he’s seeing it for the first time.
On his desk sit two slices of pecan pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream. As the new program director for GTCC’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program, taste-testing is a must and food samples are always plentiful—just one of the many perks that come with the job. Later, there will be cream puffs glazed with chocolate.
Near the pie, Schmid keeps a bowl full of peppermint Lifesavers, individually wrapped. For Schmid, the peppermints are more than just candy or an offering for his guests; they became a gateway to his life as a chef.
When Schmid was two or three years old, his uncle would swing by his Austin, Texas home and take him to a convenience store, where Schmid would get to pick out his favorite candy: a box of green peppermints the size of peas. Schmid can still recall the coolness and the sweetness of the mint; this was his earliest memory of food.
Around that same age, he would accompany his father to the local library, where his dad, a seminary student at the time, would study among the stacks of musty books. He’d pass peppermint Lifesavers to young Schmid, tucked under his father’s desk, to soothe and relax him.
From a very young age, Schmid connected with food—its taste, its smell, and the emotion it evoked. Today, he still carries these culinary memories, as well as countless other stories of the chefs, the food and the places that shaped him. He brings those experiences with him to GTCC, along with his love for food and teaching.
Schmid has more than 30 years of professional and academic experience in the culinary, beverage and hospitality industries. Most recently, he spent close to 18 years working as a professor and director of the Hotel-Restaurant Management and Hospitality Management departments at Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies in Louisville, Ky.
He is the author of six books, including “The Beverage Manager’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits” (2012) and “The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook” (2010), both of which received three Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. He’ll be releasing two additional books in 2017.
He holds a master’s degree in gastronomy from the University of Adelaide/Le Cordon Bleu in Australia and a bachelor’s degree in science from Charter Oak State College in New Britain, Conn. He’s also received 12 professional certifications.
The reputation of GTCC’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Program and the college’s commitment to excellence drew him to the director position, he said.
“I was impressed with the faculty, the program and the students,” Schmid said. “When I looked at the college as a whole and met with faculty and staff, I thought, ‘I want to be a part of that.’ This is an awesome program.”
The son of a minister, Schmid’s family moved often, exposing him to the different cultures and cuisines of primarily San Antonio, Texas and New Orleans.
“This was before Emeril moved to New Orleans; when Chef Paul Prudhomme and Chef Warren LeRuth ruled the Big Easy’s culinary scene,” Schmid said. “This early exposure to great food and passionate chefs shaped how I viewed food.”
Food fascinated Schmid. Story after story he can trace back his culinary memories.
At age four, he was eating dirty rice, a traditional Louisiana dish of rice, chicken livers and onions.
In grade school, his father walked him to class and on the way they’d stop for beignets in the French Quarter. His dad would order a café au lait for himself and chocolate milk for Schmid.
As a third grader, he stood in amazement at the line of people that snaked around the block, waiting to get into Chef Prudhomme’s restaurant, and wondered why anyone would stand in line that long for a restaurant. When he finally got to experience it as an adult, he understood why.
Later, in high school, he wrote food reviews of local restaurants and cafeteria food for his high school newspaper. All of these experiences informed his chosen career.
“Later I found out I could make a living cooking, managing and writing,” he said. “I was thrilled.”
His first food service job was a candy maker, creating decadent chocolates, caramel apples and truffles.
“I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do this,” he said. “It was so much fun.”
He moved through the culinary ranks working as a baker at a department store bakery, a grocery store, and finally a sous chef at a friend’s restaurant. Eventually, he moved into teaching classes at Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg, Iowa after he and his wife had their first son, and the demanding hours of restaurant life left little room for family time.
He soon discovered that training young chefs and watching them grow and succeed in the culinary world was fulfilling work. Over the years, he’s watched students open successful restaurants, land on the short list for the James Beard Award, and publish their own cookbooks.
“It’s fun to sit here in the bleachers and watch this happen and exceed what their teacher was able to do, which I’m insanely jealous of, but in a really good way,” he says, laughing.