Food lovers can find at least one restaurant from almost every culture of the world in Greenville. BJU culinary arts alumni can be found in the kitchens, building relationships and sharing the truth of God’s Word.
“We want them to be in the community,” said program coordinator Rob Hansen, who has worked with the Table 301 family of restaurants — including Soby’s New South Cuisine and The Lazy Goat — and as executive chef of the luxury suites at Fluor Field during the summer.
“We want them to be in their profession sharing the Gospel. It’s definitely my goal for the students,” he said. “We tell them from the very beginning that, Yes, you are training to be a chef, but you’re also training to be a missionary to the food service industry.”
See Also: Faculty Spotlight: Rob Hansen
Marianne Harris at Project Host
Marianne Harris (’13) began running Project Host’s food truck — the Hostmobile — in May 2018. She handed the project over to another in September 2020 to run the Project Host C.C. Pearce Community Culinary School. “I teach life skills, food service foundations, how to take initiative, how to make use of the programs that are offered, and how to grow as humans,” said Harris. “It is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Though she has more responsibility and a different approach than a traditional culinary career, Harris said, “I love absolutely everything about what I do. I’m doing more than the typical restaurant employee does. It’s not just feeding the masses. It’s feeding those that are desperately in need. It’s teaching those that want to better their place in life.”
Harris shared that she has had more opportunity at Project Host to be the missionary her instructors trained her to be than she would have elsewhere. “The food service industry is very rough. As Christians, it can be very hard to handle some of the tougher aspects of life in the kitchen. While we were taught to be team players, we were also taught to remain above reproach.
“Being a missionary in the kitchen is very trying. You tend to be made fun of because you’re ‘different.’ That being said, the opportunity for people to ask you questions is fantastic. I’ve been able to share so much about Jesus because people just wanted to know why I am the way I am. The kitchen is widely accepting of anyone; there’s very little judgment. You see all kinds of people, who’ve done all kinds of things, but they all have one thing in common. They’re searching for a place to belong. They want community. We all do. I’ve been able to use that community to share my community, Jesus.
“The opportunities are amazing. They come with difficulties, but the opportunities are much greater. I have many stories. One restaurant friend came to visit myself and another student while we were at BJU. He noticed the way we were, who our friends were and the environment at BJU and wanted it. He craved the joy we find in Jesus. He got saved after witnessing it first hand.”
Benjamin and Rebecca Snyder at Lumineux Chocolate
Benjamin and Rebecca Snyder, 2011 BJU culinary arts alumni, opened Lumineux Chocolate in November 2019. The business is about more than creative and delicious confections.
“Our goal as Christians, in any industry, is to let our light shine before others, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16,” said Benjamin. “In my position now, this occurs in the relationships I have with our customers, our wholesale accounts, our suppliers, etc. … For me, being that light occurs through continuously being joyful, being ethical, going the extra mile, doing everything with excellence. Building a reputation of good works, joy and excellence is essential so that when you do have an opportunity to share the Gospel, they can see the results in your life and it can have a much bigger impact on them.”
Added Rebecca: “With the restaurant industry being as dark as it is, it is very important to be a light in everything, even if it is just doing a delivery or talking about a bulk chocolate order. It is important to show on a regular basis that we are an ethical business that cares about our customers and our wholesale clients.”
This was one of the ways BJU’s culinary program prepared him, said Benjamin, “learning how to be a light in the darkness of the restaurant industry. I remember chef (Rick) Nifenecker, in particular, set a great example of this in his joy and his way of working the Gospel into everyday kitchen tasks.”
In addition, the program gave the Snyders the practical skills of costing recipes, writing menus and managing costs. Said Rebecca: “Something that has really helped me was the basics of flavor pairings, learning the start of combining flavors that work well together. This created a good foundation that allows us to be more adventurous in our flavors while keeping the integrity of the chocolate we are working with.”
The Snyders enjoy working with chocolate but for different reasons. “I love creating flavor combinations and testing out recipes to see how the flavors pair with the chocolate. I also really enjoy tempering the chocolate, learning how the chocolate is so that I can get the best temper on it,” said Rebecca.
Said Benjamin: “I love being able to create, both with taking raw cocoa beans and making chocolate from them as well as growing this business from nothing into a profitable expanding company.”
Find Lumineux Chocolate at these locations:
- Methodical Coffee
- Scandi Tiny Coffee
- Bridge City Coffee
- Fork & Plough
- Cohesive Coffee
- Upcountry Provisions
- M. Judson Books
- The Anchorage
- Augusta Twenty
- Oak Hill Cafe
- The Spice & Tea Exchange
- Travelers Rest Farmers Market
Andrea Jacquette and Judi McRae at Swamp Rabbit Cafe
Judi McRae (’13) and Andrea Jacquette (’15) both landed at local favorite Swamp Rabbit Cafe. Jacquette crafts lunches, dinners and premade foods for the cafe. McRae began in the bakery almost six years ago, moved up to head chef and now manages the Swamp Rabbit kitchen.
“The program at BJU gave me opportunities to experiment with a variety of food concepts,” said Jacquette. “As a culinary student, I learned baking and cooking techniques. My teachers instructed me well in both, however, I enjoy cooking over baking.”
McRae also said BJU’s culinary arts program “gave me the skills and the lingo to dive into anything.” Though she has found it “still takes hard work and a drive to be self motivated in the field,” she said her instructors and the classes at BJU “definitely gave me the space to be creative and learn.”
Like Harris and the Snyders, McRae and Jacquette learned the need to have a strong testimony. “I think any job you do is an opportunity to serve Christ,” said McRae. “When you work in the food industry you naturally get close with other staff because of all the stressful situations to navigate together as a team. Because of all the stress,I feel like you get to know someone quicker and it gives more opportunities to get down to the deeper stuff. … People are broken and there is plenty of opportunity daily to be a witness for Christ.“
Said Jacquette: “I’ve been able to build relationships with various coworkers over the years that have led to conversations about my worldview. Not every conversation turns into a long theological discussion. It’s been exciting to see the Spirit’s leading through those conversations. I have one coworker that no longer works at Swamp that I still keep up with and she’s asked me questions about what I believe so that’s really cool.”
Though they work in the same kitchen, the chefs enjoy different aspects of their jobs. Jacquette said, “I love working at Swamp (1) because of the people I work with and (2) the job that I do is constantly changing. Our menu changes with the seasons and our kitchen is constantly changing because we have to better manage our space to the best of our ability. It’s a dance to make the food, work around 15 other people and do it well.”
“I love to eat and eat great food!” said McRae. “I love that you have to be a constant student of what you do. There is always more to discover.”
Other Local Culinary Arts Alumni
Find more BJU culinary arts alumni at these local restaurants:
- Amber Smith (’17) at Swamp Rabbit Cafe
- Robin Michaels (’15) at Tandem Creperie
- Anna-leigh Lauger (’13) at Augusta Grill
- Diego Campos (’14) at Passerelle Bistro
- Marianne Harris (’13) at Project Host Food Truck
- Morgan Knight (’16) at Table 301 Catering and Kitchen
- Evan Faucette (’10) at The Woodlands at Furman