St. Peter preparing a cold smoked seafood platter
St. Peter preparing a cold smoked seafood platter during a culinary competition.


Life Lessons from the Chef

For chefs, mealtime is game time.

Jon St. Peter, assistant technical culinary arts professor at Western Colorado Community College, described the restaurant industry as a fast-paced team environment, that requires chefs and servers to work together in order to beat the clock ticking away in their customers growling stomachs.

St. Peter's competitive nature may have been nurtured by playing a variety of sports when he was growing up.

“My first love in life was baseball, the second one after that was culinary competition,” St. Peter said. He brought culinary competition to Colorado Mesa and WCCC when he began instructing 15 years ago. Since then, his teams have walked away with multiple state championship titles.

The first meal St. Peter said he mastered was a delicious fried egg sandwich. That was when he was about eight years old. But there is far more to culinary arts than egg sandwiches, he said.

St. Peter said he hopes his students walk away with self-confidence in both their passions and their abilities, with an understanding of where they want to go in life and with the technical skills to help get them there.

“My goal is to draw out of people who and what they want to become,” St. Peter said.

With many years of experience, St. Peter understands the complexity of the restaurant industry and teaches his students accordingly; especially through Chez Lena, the student-run restaurant at WCCC.

“I get to work side by side with the students, sort of in the trenches, doing what the students really want to do.”

He said he expects his students to think critically through problems and make the necessary split-second decisions involved in running a restaurant.

St. Peter said he also wants his students to enjoy the artistic element of creating good food and understand the human element of connecting with customers on an emotional level throughout their dining experience.

“We talk about food and we talk about life,” St. Peter said. “It’s kind of fun to start talking about the craft and the technical skills and build rapport and trust with the students. It’s very rewarding when they ask you about other important things.”

And what better place to discuss life’s big questions than in the kitchen?

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