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TCC alum lands top chef spot at local eatery

Heather Tripple is a proud Tidewater Community College alumna. She got her start in the TCC kitchens under the tutelage of Chef Deanna “Dee” Freridge. She is now the head chef at The Stock Pot in Virginia Beach.

Chef Heather Tripple at work in Virginia Beach.
Chef Heather serving up tasty dishes at The Stock Pot.

Heather earned her Culinary Arts degree in 2014. She remembers the long days of school and work that got her where she is now.

“I had a dream of having that degree and holding that diploma in my hands. I’m the first in my family to go to college and that makes my parents proud,” she said.  “Also, I proved to myself that I could do it. Today I’ve found my niche and I’m able to get creative with the food I bring to the table.”

While at TCC, Heather worked full-time and rode the bus from Virginia Beach to the Norfolk Campus. She was inspired to pursue a career in the culinary arts after participating in a cooking competition at Cox High School.

“I grew up cooking alongside my mom and grandmother, who both come from southern backgrounds. They both instilled a passion in me for creating delicious dishes at an early age,” she said.

One of Heather’s favorite things about the Culinary Arts program was the hands-on learning that happened from day one. “TCC prepared me the best way possible. I learned the fundamentals, knife skills and also gained knowledge of foods and cultures.”

Using seasonal ingredients keeps meals fresh for guests.

Heather continued, “Some of the classes provided a firm foundation for my position today including Food Costing and Recipe and Menu Management. I use that knowledge daily as I create seasonal menus for our guests.”

Heather also credits Chef Dee with helping her get started in the field. “I had my degree but lacked experience. Chef connected me with the manager at Mannino’s Italian Bistro and my career began,” she said. “That job pushed me and taught me a whole lot. Today, I’m in a position to do the teaching and I have some new hires from TCC. It’s rewarding to come full circle and now get to pour into employees just getting started.”

TCC grad cooks up a successful catering business

Monika Banks is no stranger to food preparation and management. She comes from a long line of food enthusiasts with her stepfather, mother and grandmother all avid cooks. “I grew up in the kitchen, but I wanted to learn how to do everything the right way,” Monika said.

To acquire additional experience, Monika began working in restaurants when she was a teenager. By age 18, she was the kitchen manager for a well-known eatery in Pittsburgh.

Monika moved to Virginia Beach in 2016 and worked in the hospitality industry but longed to get back to the kitchens. She finally decided to do what she loves and enrolled at TCC in 2019 where she continued to hone her craft.

Monika Banks in the TCC kitchens on Norfolk Campus.

Fast forward to today, and Monika, 37, just launched her own catering business called Mo’s Unique Taste while earning an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts this December.

The instructors at TCC were Monika’s secret to success. She credits the faculty with building her skills and inspiring her. “It’s been amazing,” Monika said. “All of TCC’s chefs bring something unique and their own style to the program. They also have years in the industry as bakery owners, caterers and chefs. The knowledge they share is priceless.”

She added, “I also learned about the history of cooking, about cultures and food, and also how to apply techniques and prepare different cuisines.”

Monika says her inspiration for cooking is people. “I like to make dishes that people have a taste for, and I enjoy serving and trying new things,” she said. “But most of all I like to see people happy and good food does that!”

Monika Banks in the TCC dining room.

Her favorite classes were International Cuisine and American Regional Cuisine. “I made a poached salmon that was really good. I also learned to use different spices and new ways to prepare familiar foods,” she said.

For her final exam for American Regional Cuisine, she made an elaborate charcuterie board. Since then, she has added different boards to her catering menu, including meat and cheese, as well as fruit offerings with a variety of sauces. “These boards are part of every event I cater now, from baby showers to wedding brunches or even retirement parties. They are the perfect pairing for so many things,” Monika said.

Monika has earned three Culinary Arts certificates including Kitchen Management, Classical Cooking and Catering. The certificates build toward the degree and serve as milestones for the program. “I was eager to earn as many certificates as possible as they show you have those specific qualifications,” she said.

Monika is already sharing her skills with her 11-year-old daughter, Raelynn. They spend hours in the kitchen creating special dishes together.

Monika holds a 3.8 GPA and has been on the Dean’s list every semester since she started at TCC. She is also earning an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, which she will complete in 2023.

“I tell everyone about TCC and encourage them to just do it. Keep pushing. Don’t rush anything,” she said. “And when it gets challenging, know it’s rewarding in the end.”

Gingerbread wow!

Culinary Arts students created a gingerbread village made with frosting flowers, candy rooftops, and a variety of sweet treats. Each gingerbread masterpiece started with an idea and blossomed into a culinary delight too sweet to eat.

The houses are the final exam for the Introduction to Baking class taught by Chef Carolyn Blackmon “My students prepared some beautiful gingerbread houses, all while cooking up the sweet and savory dishes for their final banquet,” Blackmon said. “I could not be prouder of every student involved.”

TCC’s Culinary Arts program has been donating gingerbread houses during the holidays to support Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters for more than a decade.

Baking students created a tasty array of sweet and savory treats for their final banquet.

Blackmon added, “All of the Culinary Arts instructors pitched in to help and really supported us. It was a great team effort.”

Student chefs show off their skills

Culinary Arts students were all smiles as they displayed their skills during the first “Grand Buffet” since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family and friends gathered to taste savory sandwiches, spicy soups and a variety of cold foods during the Garde Manger (HRI 145) final cooking lab on Oct. 12.

“We are so excited to be here today, demonstrating our skills and gathering as a team,” said Takao Sheridan, TCC student chef. “This class has been a nice mix of difficulty, but more fun in general, especially with the companionship we develop in the kitchens.”

Garde Manger, meaning “keeping to eat” in French, originally referred to a pantry or food storage area. In modern culinary arts, the term refers to the chef who oversees cold food production, including salads and salad dressings, smoked and cured foods, and cold sauces or soups.

“This is the most advanced lab in the Culinary Arts program. This is where students apply the techniques and knowledge they’ve learned, demonstrating artistry and different flavor profiles,” said Chef Deanne Freridge, interim program head and instructor of Culinary Arts.

TCC Culinary Arts students planned, prepared, garnished and presented a variety of cold foods for sampling including sausages, pates, canapes and gourmet sandwiches.

For retired educator Tracey Moore, the class rounds out her catering certificate. Moore, who owns a home-based bakery, chose TCC so she could add catering and savory foods to her menu.

“I love cooking and chose TCC because I knew there were things I could learn here,” she said. “Also, as a breast cancer survivor, I dedicated my food today to honor other survivors and those still affected by the disease.”

Takao added, “This program has given me a great start and prepared me for additional education. I even hope to apprentice in Louisana where they offer Cajun cooking, a favorite Southern style.”

TCC’s Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission. It is an affordable option for students with classes during the days and evenings. For more information, email or contact the Virtual Student Support Team at or by calling 757-822-1111.

From TCC to head chef at Aldo’s in Virginia Beach

Steven Dunbar remembers a time when he was playing a pick-up game of basketball near Old Dominion University. Between shots, the guys he was with were talking about their college classes.

“That day is still so clear because I always wanted to go to college and there I was being reminded again,” Dunbar said.

Soon after, the 51-year-old enrolled at Tidewater Community College to pursue his Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

“I was on cloud nine when I started at TCC. I loved school all the way down to my book bag,” he said with a laugh.

Steven Dunbar at work at Aldo’s Ristorante.

Dunbar is no stranger to commercial kitchens, as he has worked at Aldo’s Ristorante, a well-known Virginia Beach restaurant, for close to three decades. He started at the bottom and has worked every job in the kitchen.

“The culinary side of my education let me know that even with all my years of experience, there was a ton I didn’t know,” Dunbar said. “The chefs at TCC shared their professional experiences and made sure we learned every skill and concept.”

Dunbar says he looked at other culinary schools but found TCC to be the most economical option with the same accredited curriculum.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning continued with at-home and in-person labs.

“Learning that you can meet deadlines is pretty gratifying and looking back and saying, ‘Yes! I did that,’ just feels so good,” Dunbar said. “If I could speak to students coming after me, my message is finish what you start. It’s never too late to accomplish your goals.”

This May, Dunbar’s earns his associate degree and his perseverance will be celebrated during TCC’s virtual commencement to be held on May 10 at 6 p.m. He is one of the selected students to share words of encouragement with classmates during the ceremony.

Thanks in part to his degree, Dunbar was recently made head chef at Aldo’s. He now gives back by inviting TCC students to complete required externship hours in his kitchen.

“There were times in my math and computer classes when I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he said. “But here I stand. A more well-rounded individual with the degree I always wanted. I couldn’t be prouder to be a TCC grad!”

TCC’s May 2021 grads can still buy regalia through the Virginia Beach Campus and MacArthur Center Barnes and Noble at TCC. Family, friends and community supporters are encouraged to share messages with graduates at 

Live! Inside the TCC kitchens

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are back in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

A peek inside the TCC kitchens

Step inside the TCC kitchens for International Cuisine and you’ll see students preparing food specialties from around world. In the large commercial space, students are working at individual cooking stations, creating dishes that look great, and smell even better!

“It may look different in here with the distancing, masks and cleaning protocols, but it’s all going well,” said chef Caroline Blackmon, who joined the college in 2015 after owning and operating her own cafe and catering business.

She added, “For culinary courses, the book helps teach concepts, but there’s nothing that beats the real-world experiences you gain in the kitchen.”

Chef Caroline Blackmon helping with a recipe.

International Cuisine is considered a “challenge” class, where students work independently and select recipes to demonstrate their skills. During this lab, TCC student chefs are creating a variety of entrees from matzo ball soup to curry tuna and couscous to American pot roast.

What if I can’t cook?

You don’t need any experience to sign up for the Culinary Arts program at TCC. Anyone with the desire to cook and the willingness to work hard can excel in the program. TCC’s Culinary Arts program is taught by expert faculty chefs who combine practical experience and academic perspective in all course work and integrate computer applications in the classroom and labs.

Student voices

“This is a program where we help each other, and I feel relieved to be back at school,” said Angelique Sherrod. “I absolutely, positively love it. I would not trade my time here for any of those fancy schools. This place feels like home.”

“This has been a very encouraging and positive experience,” said Brandon Parrish. “Chef Blackmon is kind, helpful and honest. She also has high expectations because she knows we can do it and wants us to succeed.”

“I completed the sanitization and safety class with chef Amie Burns last fall and now we are using those skills daily,” said Tarranium Burns. “I’m excited to get out there and use what I’m learning in the culinary world.”

Good to know

TCC’s Culinary Arts program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Education Foundation Accrediting Commission. Students who complete TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts and maintain a student membership in ACF automatically receive their first industry credential, Certified Culinarian.

TCC students can complete their TCC culinary degree for less than the cost of one semester at a for-profit, four-year culinary school.

Sign up!

To learn more about TCC’s culinary program, email program head chef Don Averso at For more information about getting started at TCC, email or call 757-822-1111.

TCC to hold first Virtual Hospitality and Culinary Job Fair

Don’t let COVID-19 sidetrack your career plans.

There’s still time to register for Tidewater Community College’s Virtual Hospitality and Culinary Job Fair on Wednesday, July 22, at 10 a.m. – noon or 2 – 4 p.m.

The virtual event allows you to meet with multiple employers affiliated with the Virginia Beach Hotel Association; Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association; and the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association.

To attend the Virtual Hospitality and Culinary Job Fair, complete the registration form here.

When your registration is complete, you will receive the Zoom link to join your selected session. You must be registered to attend. TCC Alumni and community members can register as guests.

To view a listing of employers, visit the TCC Career Success Network.

The virtual event is open to students, alumni and the community.

For questions, email Babi Brock or Shauna Woods-Springer.

Student chefs cooking up success at home

Tidewater Community College’s student chefs are cooking in their own kitchens to make the grade.

TCC staffers bought and packed the ingredients students would need to continue their studies at home. The next day, students picked up their supplies in a “drive-by” format while practicing social distancing and staying outside of college buildings.

Chef Amie Burns packing food for students to use with remote learning.

“We chose ingredients and recipes that would work well in a home setting but still emphasize the skills and techniques needed for each course,” explained Deanna Freridge, who is teaching  American Regional Cuisine this semester.

Students picked up their ingredients maintaining social distancing and staying outside college buildings.

TCC chefs Freridge, Carolyn Blackmon and Amie Burns recorded their labs, including a demo on how to prepare your kitchen for home learning. During the first few days, their goodies included cranberry orange scones, cream of broccoli soup and potato and onion knish.

All of the demos are available in Canvas, the college’s learning platform, and on YouTube. Additionally, lectures are offered via Zoom video chat.

 “So far there are no hiccups in the road,” said student chef Valerie DeFreitas. “I’m pleased with how things are going. We received our products in a timely fashion and are now cooking and learning as usual.”

Students receive a checklist of the skills they need to learn for each lab, and then record videos showing themselves completing each recipe. The final step is to upload their videos to Canvas so they earn credit for their work.

Burns encourages students to keep the videos candid. “We just want to see your technique. With limited food supplies, we don’t expect a bunch of different takes. Don’t worry if the dog barks or your kid pops in. Just keep rolling with it,” she said.

All of the Spring Semester courses are underway in a remote format, including Principles of Culinary Arts, Principles of Baking and the advanced American Regional Cuisine. Other non-lab classes being taught are Food and Beverage Cost Control, Labor Cost Control and Beverage Management.

“With cooking I get the vibe that you have to work with what you have,” said student chef Melissa Coleman. “And while we might not have the same equipment at home, we can make it work and learn to improvise. In the long run, these are important skills to have.”

“We are really glad to have all of this technology so we can keep our students going,” Freridge said. “We’re finding that they are all willing and excited to be cooking remotely.”

Remote learning with the culinary program also allows student chefs to provide food for their families during a challenging time.

“We are grateful to be able to help ease the pinch many are feeling during this time,” added Nancy Prather-Johnson, dean of Business. “Providing meals for families is a nice plus to all of this.”

WTKR’s Margaret Kavanagh talked with TCC students and chefs about remote learning in their home kitchens. See more at WTKR-TV.

TCC Perry Center honored with design award by commercial real estate group

Tidewater Community College’s culinary and visual arts center, planned for Norfolk’s NEON District, was recognized with an Excellence in Developmental Design Award by the Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate (HRACRE).

TCC’s Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, which is scheduled to open in fall 2021, was honored with a Merit Award for Best Conceptual Project by the group.

Designed by Sanders and Crouse Architects, the center is to be built on land donated by the City of Norfolk on the site of the former Greyhound bus station.

“This project is made possible thanks to our partnership with the City of Norfolk and many community members and groups who are supporting our vision for a regional center to provide both educational and training opportunities for students and community members in Norfolk,” said Matt Baumgarten, executive director of TCC’s Real Estate Foundation.

The HRACRE Excellence in Development Design Awards program seeks to identify and encourage those who have invested and continue to invest the extra effort to bring quality design and development to the Hampton Roads real estate community. A panel of industry experts evaluated 39 submissions and presented the awards at the organization’s annual event earlier this month.

The Perry Center promises to energize the downtown area with expanded offerings in the college’s comprehensive culinary and visual arts programs by:

  • expanding TCC’s one-of-a-kind visual arts education program;
  • training the next generation of chefs with an expansion of TCC’s comprehensive Culinary Arts program;
  • creating opportunities for collaboration between culinary and visual arts programs;
  • making a test kitchen available to food entrepreneurs;
  • housing an expanded program in hospitality and restaurant management; and
  • providing dual-enrollment opportunities for Norfolk high school students and workforce education to residents.

The center will be funded by some TCC general funds but mostly by private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce.

For more information about donating to the campaign, contact the college’s Educational Foundation at 757-822-1080 or visit

From TCC to Sous-Chef at one of the best chop houses in Chesapeake

Many of Tidewater Community College’s certificate programs and associate degrees lead to immediate employment or, in some cases, employment while you’re still in college. We feature these on an occasional basis in our series “From here, go to work.” Here’s a look at one option.

TCC alum now a kitchen problem-solver

Brett Wellington dreamed of a career in zoology. But instead, he is taming a commercial kitchen with the skills he gained with his culinary degree.

“I was in college studying zoology and environmental engineering when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I left school to take care of her and spent a lot of my time preparing meals. I found out quickly that I was pretty good at it, and I really enjoyed it,” Wellington said.

After the passing of his mother, Darlene, Wellington, 26, returned to school with a new goal. He chose TCC’s Culinary Arts program because it was affordable and close to home.

Hands-on learning in a real kitchen

Brett Wellington in the TCC kitchens.
Brett Wellington in the TCC kitchens.

Right from the start, Wellington enjoyed working in the TCC kitchens alongside his classmates and with culinary instructors who have real-world experience.

One of them is Chef Deanna Freridge.

“Chef Dee is my idol,” Wellington said with a laugh. “But seriously, the chef instructors at TCC are all personable, and they will work with you on a real level. They don’t just teach you to cook; they go well beyond the textbook and prepare you for work in the fast-paced, high-pressure environment that is a commercial kitchen.”

Students learn knife skills, sauces and how to prepare different cuisines and how to bake. They also learn important kitchen management skills, including sanitation and safety, food purchasing, nutrition, food and beverage cost control, and recipe and menu management.

Wellington landed his job at The Butcher’s Son while in culinary school and worked his way through every station in the kitchen.

“It was helpful getting on-the-job training while still being in school,” he said. “I would not have known how to do the food ordering or pricing without my time at TCC.”

After earning his Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts in May 2019, Wellington was given the position of Sous-Chef. Today he is considered the kitchen problem solver. He is second-in-command and works directly under the Executive Chef. He handles inventory, creates daily specials, prices menu items and ensures that the kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine.

Accreditation ensures a quality education

TCC’s associate degree is accredited by The American Culinary Federation (ACF). TCC culinary graduates who maintain a student membership in the ACF are automatically awarded the first industry-level certification, which is Certified Culinarian.

“Most of my colleagues were trained at the costly, for-profit schools in the area,” Wellington said. “What I know is that from day one, I’ve had the skills and held my own in every area of the kitchen.”

Finding love and adventure along the way

Wellington with Gabrielle Lozano.
Wellington with Gabrielle Lozano.

Wellington launched his career from TCC, but he also found love. His girlfriend, Gabrielle Lozano, also graduated with her culinary degree and is now a chef at The Stockpot in Norfolk. The couple travels abroad and recently did a European food tour tasting national dishes from several places.

Find out more

Do you have a passion for food? Learn from expert faculty chefs who combine practical experience and academic perspective in all course work and integrate computer applications in all classes.

TCC’s Culinary Arts program is offered on the Norfolk Campus. For more information, contact Chef Don Averso at

TCC receives grant from TowneBank that will benefit visual, culinary, hospitality and automotive program expansion

The Tidewater Community College Educational Foundation is a recipient of a $500,000 grant from TowneBank. The funds will support the development of the TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and the expansion of the Regional Automotive Center (RAC).

The 47,000-square-foot TCC Perry Center will be located in the NEON District at the former site of the Greyhound bus station at Brambleton and Monticello avenues. It will expand TCC’s visual arts education program and train the next generation of chefs by expanding the college’s culinary arts program, including housing a program in restaurant management in Norfolk.

“For 20 years TowneBank has been a gold standard for what a true community leader should strive to be, investing in a wide range of organizations that have helped grow our region’s economy and enhance cultural opportunities,” said TCC President Gregory DeCinque.  “We are honored by TowneBank’s incredibly generous gift to TCC and are humbled by their confidence as we work together to build the next generation in the workforce and educational training opportunities for our local community.”

TCC also recently received a grant of $500,000 over the next five years from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation in support of the new building slated to open in the fall of 2021.

The TowneBank grant will be used to provide challenge grant funds to encourage area automobile dealers to help build the expansion of the RAC, Hampton Roads’ lone high-tech education facility for the automotive, marine and diesel industries.

“Since 1968, Tidewater Community College has been a vital part of the Hampton Roads community. TowneBank is honored to support TCC in its ongoing efforts to provide quality education. We are excited to be a part of TCC’s bright future,” said Morgan Davis, TowneBank president and CEO.

The expansion of the TCC Perry Center and the RAC will largely be funded through private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce. For information about donating, contact Steven Jones, executive director of the TCC Educational Foundation, at

TCC announces major gift for new center coming to the NEON District

Tidewater Community College is the recipient of a  seven-figure donation to support the building of the Patricia & Douglas Perry TCC Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.

President DeCinque announces the naming of the Houston “Hu” Odom Jr. School of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management.
President DeCinque announces the naming of the Houston “Hu” Odom Jr. School of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management.

President Gregory DeCinque announced the gift from Houston “Hu” Odom, president and founder of BOTH, Inc., a franchisee of Golden Corral Restaurants, at a news conference Tuesday morning at the TCC Pat & Doug Perry Glass Wheel Studio.  In recognition of his generosity, the college will name its school of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management for Odom.

Odom’s gift will also be used to provide scholarships for dual enrollment students from Norfolk Public Schools studying restaurant management.

“By creating a pipeline of skilled and trained professional restaurant managers, we are ensuring quality service in our area restaurants for years to come,” said Odom, an award-winning restaurateur, who operates 20 Golden Corrals, plus two in development, with headquarters in Virginia Beach and locations throughout four states. “Partnering with TCC makes good business sense but is also great for our community.

“Very simply, TCC’s new School of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management is the right idea at the right place at the right time. When my wife, Evie, and I heard about TCC’s plans, we agreed we wanted to become involved to help make those plans become a reality.”

President DeCinque said, “We share a vision to see the next generation of artists, culinary specialists and hospitality managers excel in their work. This is indeed a transformative time for TCC, made possible with partnerships with the City of Norfolk, the Perrys and now our newest benefactor, Mr. Odom.”

The TCC Perry Center, slated to open in 2021, will be a 47,000-square-foot building, located on the site of the former Greyhound bus station. In addition to housing TCC’s academic programs, it will offer dual-enrollment and workforce-training opportunities for area residents.

The center will further energize the NEON District by:

  • Expanding TCC’s one-of-a-kind visual arts education program
  • Training the next generation of chefs with a comprehensive culinary arts program
  • Creating opportunities for collaboration between culinary and visual arts programs
  • Providing five kitchens and a test kitchen open to the community and prospective entrepreneurs
  • Inaugurating a hospitality and restaurant management program in Norfolk
  • Creating a vibrant and inviting dining and arts experience for students, residents and visitors
Mayor Alexander with Evie Odom.
Mayor Alexander with Evie Odom.

“TCC’s new Perry Center is a major economic boost to the growth and expansion of the NEON District as a destination for the arts. For that reason, I am very grateful for Mr. Odom’s support,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander.

Odom’s restaurants consistently hold sales and customer satisfaction rankings in the top tier of the Golden Corral system. In 2001, Golden Corral Corporation adopted his idea of Military Appreciation Night, which serves free steak dinners to all current and former service personnel while raising money for the Disabled American Veterans. Odom first implemented the idea in Hampton Roads in 1999.

Odom is also passionate about giving low-income and disadvantaged students access to education in culinary arts and restaurant management. “A significant portion of my donation to TCC will be used to endow scholarships and other programs to help ensure access to TCC’s new school for students here in Norfolk and in other local communities,” he said.

His gift will benefit dual enrollment students in Norfolk. Dual enrollment allows qualifying high school students to jump-start their college careers by earning college credit.

Hu Odom at the press event on Dec. 18.
Hu Odom at the press event on Dec. 18.

“We are delighted to be able to offer this new career training to our high school students to prepare them well for the workforce,” said Noëlle Gabriel, chair of the Norfolk School Board.

Construction of the Perry Center will be funded entirely by private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce. For more information about the campaign, contact Steven Jones at or call 757-822-1572.

For information about the college’s visual arts, culinary arts and hospitality management programs, contact the enrollment team at

Lifelong cook perfected her craft at TCC

Growing up while her cousins played in the back yard, Tasha Roberts cooked in the kitchen with her mother and grandmothers.

Now she’s a professional chef and graduate of Tidewater Community College’s Culinary Arts program.

“We always had big Sunday dinners and holiday gatherings,” Roberts said. “By the time I got into high school, I was creating specialty sandwiches and other snacks for my friends. They would rave about everything.”

After high school, Roberts put her love of cooking on the back burner to study nursing. But it didn’t take long for her to end up back in the kitchen. “When I got to my phlebotomy class, I really started rethinking everything. I left school and ended up tending bar to pay bills,” she said. “And every shift, when I should have been behind the bar, my boss would find me in the kitchen talking with the chefs.”

Roberts worked in plenty of restaurants as a host, server and manager. That experience finally gave her the motivation to try culinary school.

Roberts looked into several for-profit schools before selecting TCC’s program, which is accredited by the American Culinary Federation.  She enrolled in 2012 and spent the next three years studying for her Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, which she earned in 2015. She completed her bachelor’s in business from Old Dominion University in 2017.

Roberts recalls being totally unprepared for culinary school, even though she came to that first class with a swagger.

“I found out that I didn’t even know how to boil an egg properly,” she said with a laugh. “The program definitely prepares you for the fast-paced world of culinary arts.”

Roberts’ favorite class was “Garde Manger” under chef Deanna Freridge because of the difficult recipes and the various sauces she learned to prepare. She also enjoyed the end-of-semester banquet where students showcased their special dishes.

Baking challenged her the most.  “There was a moment in this class when I had to decide if this was what I was going to do. Was I going to follow the recipe and execute it properly, or was I going to give up?”

Tasha RobertsRoberts completed her externship hours in the Norfolk Student Center Café. After graduation, she worked as a chef at Founders Inn. She later served as executive chef at Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach.

Today, Roberts owns and operates Bonjou, a catering, private chef and pop-up food kiosk featuring her speciality, Cajun-Creole food. She serves up healthy portions of Southern favorites from gumbo to jambalaya to shrimp boils and more. She also works under chef Jacoby Ponder in the Norfolk Kitchen Lab.

“I absolutely love what I’m doing now; I’m finally where I belong,” she said. “While my business is thriving, I still have my eye on a food truck in the future.”

Roberts encourages aspiring chefs to pay attention in every class. “You’re going to need both the basics and advanced skills you’ll hone in the program. And get into the kitchen and shadow some chefs. Be sure this really is your passion, because that’s what will make the difference when you go to perfect your craft.”

Roberts’ favorite time of year is Thanksgiving. She shares some of her prized recipes below.

Cajun Fried Turkey

¼ cup roasted garlic (put in a blender and liquefy)
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ pound butter
10 ounces Abita amber beer (or any dark beer)
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
10-12 pound turkey
2½  gallons peanut oil

Over low heat, combine all of the marinade ingredients (roasted garlic, white pepper, cayenne pepper, butter, beer, hot sauce) in a 2-quart sauté pan. Simmer just enough to melt the butter and dissolve the seasonings. Cool.

Remove all of the giblets from the turkey. Use a chef’s syringe and inject the turkey throughout with the marinade. (Use about 8 ounces; all of the marinade does not need to be used.)  

 Refrigerate and allow the turkey to marinade for 4 -6 hours or even overnight.

**** NOTE: Only do this outside on concrete with plenty of ventilation
In a 30-quart (tall not squat) stock pot and a propane burner, with a good regulator, bring the peanut oil to 325F. Use the stainless steel basket to hold the turkey OR use only 100 percent cotton twine to tie the legs of the turkey and lower the turkey VERY slowly into the oil. Ensure that the oil does not bubble over the sides of the pot. If it does, remove the turkey immediately and turn off the burner before a grease fire erupts.

Fry the turkey for 3 ½ to 4 minutes per pound. (That’s about 35 to 40 minutes for a 10-pound bird!)

Macaroni and Cheese Pie


2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
4 eggs
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
2¼  cups milk
½  cup biscuit baking mix
¼  teaspoon salt
¼  teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch deep dish pie plate.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1½ cups cheese and macaroni; sprinkle into pie plate.

Place remaining ingredients minus remaining ¼ cup cheese in a blender jar. Blend until smooth, about 15 seconds on high speed (or 1 minute in a large bowl with a hand mixer).

Pour into pie plate. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bake an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Cool 10 minutes then cut into wedges.

Candied Sweet Potatoes with Rum Sauce


8 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 pieces
3 cups light brown sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh orange juice
1½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup rum
1 stick butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large, heavy pot, combine potatoes, sugar, water, orange juice, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and salt.

Bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Strain the potatoes out of the sauce and place in a casserole dish.

Return the sauce to the pan. Add the rum to the sauce and continue to cook until syrup is thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour the syrup over the potatoes.

Add the pieces of butter and the marshmallows (as many as you like).

Place in the oven. Bake until the marshmallows are browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding


8 cups bite-sized bread pieces
3 large eggs
1¼ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon maple or vanilla extract
½  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans, halved or chopped


Prepare an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper and spraying well with a nonstick cooking spray.

Place all of the bread pieces into the baking dish.

Pour the melted butter over the bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple or vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.

Stir in pecans. Pour evenly over the bread pieces. Use a rubber spatula to push and “prod” the bread pieces around in the dish until all are coated in the syrupy mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream!

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