JRTC Culinary Students, Staff Visited by World Famous Chef

JRTC Culinary Students, Staff Visited by World Famous Chef
Posted on 04/25/2024

LOW MOOR — World-renowned chef Dan Giusti recently visited students, staff, and board members from Alleghany Highlands Public Schools. 

Giusti is a former head chef at Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was considered by many at the time to be the best restaurant in the world. His visit to the Highlands came through a connection with Jacob Wright, chair of the Alleghany Highlands School Board. 

Wright met Giusti at a chef’s conference several years ago. A hog raised by Wright was being used as part of a demonstration. During the conference, Wright became intrigued by Giusti’s ideas in regard to school nutrition.

School nutrition came to the forefront of Giusti’s thinking when he left Noma and returned to Connecticut in 2016. Guisti had come to believe that he would have a greater impact on people’s lives through school nutrition than working at a world-class restaurant.  As a proponent of healthy, tasty school meals, he founded Brigaid, a company that provides the experience base of chefs to support school staff. 

Giusti also has a keen understanding of the financial limitations and regulatory requirements that schools face in preparing meals for students. That’s why he encourages schools to be practical and innovative in preparing meals.

“I am a big fan of Chef Giusti and his work,” said Debra Buckner, supervisor of school nutrition for AHPS. “We are always trying to be innovative and creative in preparing meals for our students that are tasty and nutritious. We know that a hearty breakfast and lunch play an important role in the education process.”

On Wednesday, April 17, Giusti met with Jackson River Technical Center culinary students and AHPS school nutrition staff. He engaged with the audience in a casual question-and-answer session.  Giusti’s vast career provided a wealth of discussion topics for culinary students and AHPS food service employees. He was formally educated at the Culinary Institute of America.

The questions the students asked Giusti during the conversation were very interesting and concerned a great variety of cooking topics, including other famous chefs with which Giusti had worked and the famous people he had served.  

Giusti was enthused by the proximity of The Omni Homestead Resort and The Greenbrier to AHPS students. He voiced particular excitement that students are exploring work opportunities at these famous destination resorts. AHPS culinary students can enjoy the benefits of work-based learning experiences in local establishments by working with their instructor, Chef Robert Fehle, and other staff such as Seth Bradley, work-based learning coordinator.  

Under Fehle’s tutelage at JRTC, culinary students have the opportunity to learn many culinary skills, such as baking and pastry, proper knife skills, and a wide variety of cooking techniques. These skills can then be honed at many of the different local restaurants, resorts, and other food service establishments in the Alleghany Highlands. 

Fehle was elated to see his students have an opportunity to talk with a chef of Guisti’s caliber. 

“It is a wonderful experience for the culinary students to be able to talk to a chef who has the wide range of experience that Chef Giusti has, from Michelin-starred restaurants to public schools. It really shows the students that being a successful chef can mean many different things and that having a positive impact on their guests and community is what really makes a great chef,” Fehle said.

Giusti’s appearance at JRTC was attended by  Dr. Sandy Curwood, Director of the Office of School and Community Programs for the Virginia Department of Education. JRTC culinary students helped to prepare dinner for a Virginia School Boards Association meeting that was held in Clifton Forge during the evening on April 17.   

“This was an amazing opportunity for the Alleghany Highlands Public Schools school nutrition program staff and the culinary program students to partner under the skillful direction of [chefs] to produce a fantastic meal for the Virginia School Boards Association, and demonstrate the potential for Virginia school nutrition staff and culinary students to expand their skills and enhance their programs,” Curwood said.

Giusti’s visit was sponsored by The Alleghany Foundation. He  also spoke at the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Blue Ridge Region Spring Forum while in the Alleghany Highlands. This year’s event was held at The Historic Masonic Theatre and organized by Wright, who also serves as VSBA Blue Ridge Regional Chair. 

“We were so pleased that our students, our staff, and guests from around the area were able to hear Giusti speak,” said Kim Halterman and Melinda Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS.  “His words were inspiring, and the concepts he discussed were practical, too.”  Support from The Alleghany Foundation helped facilitate the visit.

With approximately 2,700 students, AHPS was created when Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged in July 2022. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.


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