By Kenya McCullum
ACF Chef Peter Vossenberg, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, chef/instructor at Helms College in Augusta, Georgia, regularly has a lot of veterans in his classroom — and he wouldn’t have it any other way. As a veteran himself, he understands how challenging the transition to the civilian workforce can be, so he uses his experience to help students make that leap and use their military skills in the kitchen. Chef Vossenberg talked to us about how he bonds with his veteran students, as well as get his opinion on the future of culinary education.
Q: How are things going in culinary education these days?
A: We’re doing pretty darn good and we have a lot of veterans. Actually, I have only a class of five right now, usually I have a class of 12 to 17 students, and they’re all veterans — there’s Air Force, Army and Navy represented here. The veterans seem to want to use their tuition assistance and they’re getting a culinary or baking degree, but I think it’s not just the culinary end of it, but continuing education for veterans as well.
Q: As an instructor and veteran yourself, do you feel you share a common bond with your veteran students that makes it easier to teach them?
A: Absolutely. I also have a veteran’s club here and sometimes there are some issues. They get kind of antsy and you can tell they’re getting stressed out. It’s nice for me that I have been there, done that type of deal, so I’m able to calm them down and get them to breathe in a little bit and just relax. I tell them, “It’s not the end of the world here, you can make a mistake, don’t worry about it. It’s just a potato, we can cook another one.” They’re so eager to please, they’re so eager to make sure that the mission is complete. I say, “That’s great, but we can take our time. There’s no rush to it.” But I feel that comradery with them. Of course, I’m one of the only Navy guys around here. It’s all Army, so we butt heads on that a lot.
Q: What do you think about the future of culinary education?
A: I think it’s good. I think culinary schools are here to stay. And it could even be the online schools because they are doing so well also.
Chef Vossenberg sadly passed away unexepectly on Aug. 28, 2023 at the age of 63. Chef Vossenberg was serving as president of the ACF Augusta (Georgia) Chapter since 2021 at the time of his passing. Prior to his six-year tenure at Helms Chef Vossenberg served as director of hospitality programs at Florida Technical College and was an active member of the ACF Central Florida Chapter, serving on the board as vice president and membership chair. His foray into the culinary industry began while enlisted in the United States Navy, from 1979 to 1985, when he started out as a cook and moved up the ranks to mess management specialist and culinary trainer.