As the president of Pikes Peak Community College, I’ve seen time and time again what success looks like. A few days ago, I found out what success tastes like.
The occasion was the first Taste of PPCC dinner, an event to demonstrate — in a literal way — how our college feeds the local economy. Some of our greatest culinary successes gathered at the elegant patio of 2South Food + Wine Bar for an eight-course feast.
With each course, the chefs told their story: how they ended up at PPCC and what the college did for them.
Our hostess, the award-winning 2South executive chef Supansa Banker, told us how PPCC took what she learned in her grandmother’s kitchen in Thailand and layered on the marketable skills necessary to a commercial kitchen. Interesting note of trivia: Before coming to PPCC, Banker had been married to rocker Ted Nugent’s manager. But it turns out, she’s the real rock star. During the dinner, she served a mouth-watering cedar-planked salmon and braised beef cheeks that diners found to be pure delight.
The other culinary rock stars at the event included: Bobby Couch from Green Line Grill and Whistle Pig Brewing Co., Ana Couch from Whistle Pig, Sommelier Charles Wear from Whistle Pig, Maylen Gaspar from Gypsy Pizza, Tara Bauer from That Truck and Liz Rosenbaum from Her Story Cafe.
Many of the chefs shared memories of what they learned from Michael Paradiso, the chairman of the culinary program, who sometimes seemed on the verge of tears as the event turned into an impromptu gastronomical version of “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
All the chefs spoke as eloquently with their words as they did with their food, talking about the skills and connections they garnered from PPCC.
Of course, this delicious event showcased the talents of only a fraction of the chefs from Pikes Peak Community College. Other notable alumni, not present that night, include chef Nathan Dirnberger, formerly of Nosh, now executive chef at Colorado Springs School District 11; Andres Velez from Piglatin Food Truck, Jacqueline Hamilton from the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and many more.
To show where these chefs are, we’ve created the Pikes Peak Community College Pin Project, an online guide about where to find our former students in the Pikes Peak region. It dramatically demonstrates how PPCC is the home team, with students that largely come from our community and then quickly feed the local workforce.
This is a story that will be told in many chapters.
This one uses the new website ppcc.edu/taste-of-ppcc to show where to find the local chefs trained and inspired at our college. This is clearly a work in progress, one that invites community assistance. We are reaching out to all those people who’ve passed through our doors who are now in the local restaurant scene to submit their pin, showing where they work and what they do.
Culinary education is a small but significant part of what we do. Our 150-plus programs graduate nearly 3,000 students each year, some of those going on to four-year colleges or universities and others entering their careers immediately.
In the future, we’ll create events and interactive maps for other programs that show the many ways we contribute to the growing regional workforce.
Lance Bolton is president of Pikes Peak Community College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.