Ramen, Easy Mac, cold pizza, and gummi bears — these are staples in the diets of many college students. But what about chicken fricassee and local shrimp with a cilantro-speckled salsa? That’s what students in the First Year Experience course “Latin America and the French Caribbean” will dine on this upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, under the hand of renowned star chef Bob Waggoner.
Waggoner worked in France, Florida, and Nashville before taking the helm at Charleston Grill for over a decade. The chef then moved to television and won an Emmy for his show “Off the Menu.” Today, he plays host at In The Kitchen with Bob Waggoner, a cooking class/dinner party space on Market Street in Charleston.
As Hispanic studies professor Sarah Owens explains, “Chef Waggoner is a very famous chef. One day I was walking by his kitchen, which is surrounded by windows, and I thought that would be a perfect venue for our students. After I did a bit of research I discovered that Chef Waggoner used to live in France. Even though it was a long shot I gave him a call and he agreed to prepare a night of French Caribbean cooking for our class. He told me that he wants to give back to the community and to inspire young people to pursue a career in cooking.”
A high school teacher inspired Waggoner to begin his career in the kitchen, so he hopes to perhaps invigorate CofC students to look at careers in restaurants and hospitality. “If you got some guts and and a little bit of energy, you can make it happen,” says Waggoner.
Introduction to Latin American and Caribbean Studies is not a traditional history course. The class focuses on providing students with a general overview of history, politics, current events and culture, says Owens. “I am a firm believer that food is an important part of every culture. This FYE course has an emphasis on the French Caribbean, and I thought that food would be a perfect way to get students interested in island culture. In fact, the highlight of this course is the possibility for students to do a week-long spring break trip for a one credit FYE travel experience. My colleague, Kathy Kaufman, will be taking students to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in March.”