Growing up in our childhood years, each of us has probably had a curiosity about some item that we were interested in. For some, the curiosity, in terms of “how does this thing work?”, might lead to actually taking the item apart to see all of the pieces inside; probably with a result of never being able to put it back together again in running order! There are probably countless bikes, lawnmowers, clocks, or other gadgets in boxes in basements everywhere that will never run again! For others, maybe it was to try to answer the question as to “What might happen to this, if I tried this?” This second scenario is what really sparked River Bend Career and Technical Center’s Culinary Arts Chef, Trace Heidenreich’s love and interest in the field of food.
It all started at the Waits River Valley School, when Trace was in the 5th grade. His teacher, Ms. Maxwell, would sometimes bring the class over to the art room on Friday afternoons to make cupcakes. The room had a stove and oven, and the cupcakes were from a packaged mix. The whole class enjoyed making, baking and eating this “treat”, including Trace. As Trace became more interested in how the cooking process worked, he thought that “bake” and “broil” were probably not really very different. So, on one Friday afternoon, he set the oven to broil rather than bake to cook the cupcakes! He claims he had some interesting results! Thus, began Trace’s desire to learn, and his fascination and curiosity with how foods, cooking techniques, combinations of methods, and the “art” of culinary came together!
Two decades later, the “why” and the “how” something works in this field are his passions, and he loves passing this knowledge on to others. From his experimenting in Ms. Maxwell’s class, Trace went on to complete the Culinary Arts Program at the Hartford Career and Technical Center, and graduate from Hanover High School. After high school, Trace continued his education at the New England Culinary Institute, receiving an associates’ degree in 2002, and a bachelor’s degree in 2005. Since graduating, his skills have taken him to places in Colorado, New York State, and North Carolina; as well as locally in New Hampshire and Vermont. Duties have ranged from sous chef to line cook, to rounds cook, to food services director, to chef and general manager. He has gained experience in resorts in our area such as The Woodstock Inn and The Trapp Family Lodge; to private boarding schools and colleges; to The Biltmore Estate; to supplying meals to wilderness camps.
During all of Trace’s experiences, he found himself teaching others the skills and abilities he was developing. It was like coaching others to be the best they could be. When he had the opportunity to come back to the area where he grew up, and to give back to the profession he loves, he jumped at the opportunity to teach at River Bend. His feelings, after being in this program for two years, are that if he can help foster basic culinary skills, life skills, and to open a positive curiosity about the culinary field to his students, then he will be doing something productive for the future. Being part of the culinary field is exciting, in that it is creative every day, with never the same thing twice. Opportunities in the field are huge, with career fields that many students have never even thought about. Trace’s goal in his kitchen is to provide a safe place for each student to try new things with the chance to succeed, learn from mistakes, and to grow.
Outside of school, Trace is doing a little “homesteading” with his wife (also a talented culinary professional). This includes raising a large garden, keeping chickens, helping to building their new home, clearing land, caring for his children and family, applying his newly acquired woodworking skills, and continuing his love of the outdoors. At the same time, Trace is involved in the Vermont Technical College program for technology education teachers, and he is hoping to move on to a master’s program at some point in the future.
The field of culinary arts is vast, with many varied opportunities. Trace’s students could walk directly into a kitchen from this program, continue their education at some post-secondary college program, participate in a shorter-term certificate opportunity, or perhaps qualify for an apprenticeship program somewhere. The diversity and wide scope of this field makes balancing what could be taught, and what is needed to be taught, a challenge. Trace wants to make sure that he provides as many related opportunities for his students, as well; particularly in the more non-traditional industry positions like dietary work or general hospitality industry positions. He also works closely with the students in the Diversified Agriculture program to really create a “farm to table” atmosphere in the kitchen.
Currently, Trace’s students earn some industry credentials, in addition to their skills in the class. These include certification as a ServeSafe Food Handler, ServeSafe Certification, CPR, and prepping for the ServeSafe Manager certification. Members of the class have also become involved in the National Restaurant Association’s ProStart Competition. In late March of this year, ten students and Trace will travel to the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York, for a very intense culinary competition. The winners of the contest will then travel to Washington D.C. in May to compete nationally in the final stage of the contest.
Trace feels that the successes he has seen so far in this program have been made possible because of the help of his local advisory committee members, who are always available to give advice, suggestions or help to promote the program. Trace’s advisory members include Aron Tomlinson, Bernie Marvin, Bryan Leblanc and Mark Robie. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the positive direction and energy in this program is exciting, and one can see the enthusiasm in the eyes and actions of the students in the program as they continue to explore, take responsibility, and learn in this exciting field!