Culinary college cooks up degree for governor Schaefer named honorary doctor

June 28, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Before this week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer had received eight honorary doctoral degrees, in subjects such as law and humanities.

Yesterday he picked up another one, but for both him and the college that bestowed the honor, it was a first.

The Baltimore International Culinary College made Mr. Schaefer an honorary doctor of culinary arts and hospitality management, in recognition of his contributions to the "development and growth of the hospitality industry in Maryland" and his long-standing support of the college.

Mr. Schaefer took the occasion -- less than three weeks before Baltimore will be host to the All-Star Game -- to criticize the local hospitality industry. He said many hotels and restaurants, as well as the government, don't do enough to make tourists feel welcome.

"We in the city of Baltimore are missing the boat in tourism," the governor said in his address to the graduating class of 230. "We are not putting enough money in. The state is not putting enough money in. Restaurants are not doing as much as they can."

By contrast, Europeans work hard to make visitors feel welcome, Mr. Schaefer said, reflecting on his recent economic development trip abroad.

"They understand the importance of good food. They understand the importance of hospitality. They understand the importance of being kind to tourists. All you have to do is say to tourists, 'Gee, we're glad you're here.' . . . You don't have to do anything but make them feel at home."

Mr. Schaefer's honorary doctorate in culinary arts and hospitality management is the first such degree to be awarded in the nation, according to culinary college president Roger Chylinski.

"We felt we've reached the point in our development that we can give this kind of recognition," Mr. Chylinski said. "And we wanted the first one to go to the person who has given us the most support and encouragement -- the governor."

During commencement exercises held at the Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall, Governor Schaefer donned a black robe and ceremonial toque -- a cylindrical white chef's hat.

But unlike the 230 graduates who received degrees and professional certificates, Mr. Schaefer did not have to debone a chicken or sit through culinary classes. No one even mentioned his cooking skills -- although he did volunteer how much he likes good food.

As mayor of Baltimore for 15 years starting in 1971, Mr. Schaefer was instrumental in helping the 21-year-old institution grow from a division of the Community College of Baltimore to a full-time career school that prepares students for jobs in the hospitality industry.

As mayor and governor, Mr. Schaefer has helped make downtown Baltimore a tourist destination with hundreds of restaurants and more than 5,000 first-class hotel rooms -- several times the number it had before he became mayor.

This year, he pushed for legislative funding that will permit construction of a $150 million expansion of the 14-year-old Baltimore Convention Center, a project expected to spur construction of even more restaurants and hotels.

Mr. Schaefer encouraged the future cooks, innkeepers, pastry chefs and restaurant managers to explore different parts of Maryland, from the Civil War battlefields of Western Maryland to "the great Ocean City."

Above all, he said, it is important to have a vision.

"If you don't believe in something, if you don't look forward to something, nothing happens in life."

One of the commencement speakers, Roxanne Krisak, who received an associate of arts degree, said her dream was to create "culinary art" that leads to "the bursting of flavors in the palates of patrons." After her two-year program, she said, she felt "taught, tested and tempered by a group whose experience truly spans the globe."

A second student speaker, Catherine Boger, recalled the "sheer terror" of her final exam -- "a timed test of knife skills in deboning a chicken -- but not your fingers." Some students "did not come out unscathed," she said.

With educational facilities in downtown Baltimore and the Republic of Ireland, the college awards two-year associate degrees and professional certificates in cooking, baking and pastry, restaurant and food service management, and innkeeping management.

Administrators boast that 95 percent of the college's students find jobs upon graduation -- and that many graduates get three to five job offers.

Graduate Debbie Ellingsworth said she got three job offers in Delaware after completing her courses in baking and pastry-making, and she accepted all of them. In one job she is a restaurant manager and cook, and in the other two she prepares desserts for catering firms, she said. "I haven't been turned down yet."

Tanuja Singh, a native of British Guyana in South America, has a job interview tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore hotel.

"American cooking was very, very new to me when I came to this country," she said. "I had to start from scratch."

Jeffrey Smith, a retired military officer who received a degree in professional cooking, now works as a cook at the Sly House Tavern in Crofton. Mr. Smith, 45, was a noncommissioned intelligence officer before enrolling at the culinary college.

"I read an article in a psychology magazine that said when you get to middle age you should change careers, because it's good for your health," he said. "I always liked cooking, so that's what I did."

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