Chef Greg Spencer, Tri-County Community College’s first ever culinary faculty member, has been passionately involved in the food service industry one way or another over the last 39 years. He would say that it was his destiny to be a culinarian since he was a young boy.
TCCC’s newest faculty member spent his childhood immersed in food and cooking thanks to the influence of his two grandmothers and their cooking skills. That early start helped set his sights on a life-long career in the culinary arts that has included owning his own restaurant, and now as the culinary arts instructor at TCCC.
At the young age of 14 he worked as a short order cook in a family fast food restaurant to help his family during some tough financial times. By 17 he had been promoted to assistant manager at a family style restaurant in Asheboro. After a three-year stint at Elon studying Business Administration, he entered the culinary field.
“I really didn’t know at the time how all this worked in becoming a chef,” he said. “I actually thought all chefs were dropped off a boat somewhere on Ellis Island.”
His early experience in the culinary field included employment at the Hendersonville Country Club (Apprentice Chef), the Country Club of Asheville, the Pinewood Country Club in Asheboro (Sous/Executive Chef), and at the Alamance Country Club in Burlington, North Carolina as their Executive Chef.
But his ultimate goal, as it is with most chefs in the culinary field, was to run and own a restaurant. In June 1994 he realized that dream when he bought the Carolina Cafe in Asheboro. Listed as one of the top three restaurants in the area, in 1996 his restaurant was selected to host the North Carolina Gubernatorial debate between Jim Hunt and Robin Hayes.
“We specialized in southern food with a French and Italian twist, ice cream, and a whole lot more,” he said.
This 53 year old native of Asheboro, North Carolina, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Elon University in 2007 and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts from Asheville-Buncombe Tech Community College (A-B Tech) in 1987.
In 1987 he was one of four chefs from A-B Tech to compete in a North Carolina/South Carolina culinary competition. Instead of entering the scholastic category in the competition, his team was entered in the professional category with 368 entries and they won one of two gold medals. Chef Greg also competed and won medals in several ice carving competitions conducted in the region.
He has taught the culinary arts at both A-B Tech and Blue Ridge Community College, and was very motivated to apply at TCCC and to build a quality program from the ground up.
“When nothing is built, that is what is the most appealing to me. It gives me the flexibility to build up a program to the high standards I expect of my culinary students. It is my goal to build the best culinary arts program in the country,” he said.
The hiring of Spencer and state approval of the TCCC Culinary Arts program are both significant accomplishments and part of a long-range plan initiated by President Dr. Donna Tipton-Rogers seven years ago.
“Although this has been planned for many years, I believe we are beginning this program at a most strategic time because of the expected exponential growth in the local tourist and hospitality industry,” said Tipton-Rogers. “Chef Greg brings a perfect blend of experience, education, and enthusiasm to this college and this program of study.”
Chef Greg admits he has been through a lot of ups and downs in his life. Through it all he has always lived by a saying to get him through the hard times – “Don’t judge a man by how high he flies when things are going well, but about how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”
In June, Tri-County Community College broke ground on a new building that will house the College’s Culinary Arts Program of Study. The new addition will feature 2,048 square feet of kitchen space, storage rooms, a walk-in freezer, and an office for the culinary facility.
If you are passionate about food and want to be a Culinarian like Chef Greg, contact Tri-County Community College at (828) 837-6810 and ask about the Culinary Arts program.
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