When Jarrett Palmer first enrolled in classes at Tri-County Community College, he never imagined he would become a trendsetter as the first student to successfully complete the requirements of the College’s culinary arts program.
“After struggling for many years to break into the music industry, I found myself out of work for the first time in nearly 20 years,” Palmer said. “I began to lose myself with so much free time on my hands until my wife encouraged me to go back to school.”
Palmer said he originally came to TCCC to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, but after a year of struggling through “piles of assignments,” with no real passion for his schoolwork, he decided to make a change.
“After two semesters, I was told that the College would be offering a culinary arts program. My wife and I had long dreamed of opening our own restaurant, so I decided to try my hand in the culinary field,” Palmer said.
Palmer said he quickly fell in love with culinary arts.
“Following my first day in class, I knew immediately that I had truly found my calling,” Palmer said. “Becoming a chef gave me the ability to use my art background and my creativity in a manner I had never done before.”
Palmer was among the four students in TCCC’s initial culinary arts program to design and present a seven-course capstone dinner for local chefs and guests to critique. Palmer’s elaborate French Nouvelle-inspired menu resulted in an elegant and decadent meal for his table guests, which included Dr. Donna Tipton-Rogers, TCCC president.
“Jarrett embodies the creativity, dedication, and diligence that we hope each of our students bring to the classroom everyday,” said Tipton-Rogers. “Now as he moves into his career as a professional chef, it will be exciting to follow his advancements in this limitless career field.”
Following a 9-week paid internship at the Grande Dunes Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Jarrett, along with fellow TCCC culinary arts student Jose Renteria, was offered a full-time position as a line cook.
“When we first started, everyone treated us as if we weren’t well trained, similar to interns they had previously employed,” Palmer said. “But when they realized the level of our skills and extensive knowledge, their treatment toward us completely changed. They began to treat us as chefs, in reality, not just interns. Jose and I both agreed that all the credit goes to Chef Greg Spencer.”
Ultimately, Palmer said his goal is to return to Cherokee County and open an upscale restaurant to help give back to his community.
“This program is really about the community. Chef Spencer taught me the importance of giving back to our community and he has inspired each of us to do what we can, where we can.” Palmer said.
For Palmer, the ability to start fresh at TCCC resulted in his finding a passion he might not have discovered otherwise.
“It means a lot to have such supportive friends and family,” Palmer said. “I’m proof it’s never to late to change your life and head in a new direction.”
For more information regarding TCCC’s culinary arts program, call 837-6810.
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