The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has awarded the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair to Ted Polfelt, an award-winning local chef and instructor in the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program.
The Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair is intended to honor an
outstanding Virginia Western instructor who advances the understanding of
business management principles in his or her coursework, regardless of academic
discipline. The honored teacher may use the funds to enhance the quality of his
or her curriculum, facilities or instruction in any way he or she deems
Polfelt plans to host a culinary competition and educational
seminar at Virginia Western that will give students the opportunity to compete
in a professional-level “culinary salon” without the cost of travel. The
competition would be open to students and culinary professionals alike, and
draw on judges sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
The endowed chair is named for the late Don Smith, who led Roanoke
Electric Steel and was a Director Emeriti of the Educational Foundation. Steel
Dynamics Inc., formerly Roanoke Electric Steel, established the endowed chair
in 2006 with a $100,000 gift to honor Smith’s longtime leadership. Smith was
president of Roanoke Steel from 1985 to 2004 and worked for the company 49
Polfelt said instructors in the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program
“literally apply business management principles into everything we do. We talk
about utilizing every piece of animal or vegetable to maximize profits, as well
as how to maintain your professional appearance to separate yourself in the job
Acquiring business management skills early in a hospitality
industry career is critical, Polfelt said. Too often, talented culinary
students don’t understand the importance of maintaining core costs such as
labor, food and rental. He offers, as an example, the idea of opening a coffee
shop. “It sounds like a great business plan: Cheap to produce, low labor costs
and great cost margins. But how many cups do you have to sell to cover your
$2,000 lease and the rest of the expenditures?
“I like seeing the ‘A-ha’ moment in our students, when the picture
of entrepreneurship becomes a little bit clearer,” he said.
The Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program is housed in newly expanded
space at the Claude Moore Educational Complex, which is part of the Roanoke
Higher Education Center in the historic Gainsboro neighborhood. The program
currently enrolls 308 students who are pursuing an Associate of Applied Science
degree. Polfelt has been an instructor in the program since 2012.
“Ted’s project proposal is a creative and interactive way to marry
our student’s culinary college tutelage with real-world experience and skills,”
said Yvonne Campbell, Dean of Virginia Western’s School of Business, Technology
& Trades. “He has smartly structured the project event agenda so that the
experience increases student exposure to business principles employed in
culinary arts at a level experienced by few.
“Seeing firsthand practical application of entrepreneurship by
talented, dedicated experts is an important career and life lesson, and,
honestly, can be life-changing for many of our students.”
Polfelt’s endowed chair appointment spans the 2019-20 and 2020-21
academic years. He is the third recipient of the Donald G. Smith Endowed
Teaching Chair, following Alexander Scott, an associate professor of Spanish,
and Cristin Barrett, an assistant professor of mathematics.
Polfelt previously was named the 2016 ACF Southeast Region Chef of
the Year and was a semi-finalist for National Chef of the Year. He has also won
more than 20 medals competing in ACF-sanctioned competitions across the
country. He is currently the Vice President of the Southwest Virginia Chapter
and is the Chair of the National Certification Commissions Appeals
Sub-Committee. He also serves as Corporate Chef for Jefferson Street Management