The sixth annual Elby Awards, sponsored by Richmond Magazine, and named for renowned French chef and Richmonder Paul Elbling, were awarded on Sunday evening, February 19 at the Altria Theater.
Reynolds student Renee Comstock was named one of two Culinary Students of the Year at the event. We recently sat down with her to discuss the award and her time at Reynolds:
Congratulations on your Elby Award! When do you plan to finish your studies at Reynolds?
I hope to graduate in December 2017.
Tell me about your experience at the Elby Awards. Was it your first time attending?
I worked at Elby event last year. I am always quick to volunteer to work at community events because it’s good practice and helps me meet other people in the food industry. The Elbys is always a great event for “food” people. I knew in advance I had been selected for the award this year and was truly honored.
What was your favorite class at Reynolds, and why?
I have liked them all! As far as the actual cooking classes, I find that they get better as you go along, and each one is better than the one before. The academic courses are important for learning the business side of the industry.
How did you get interested in the culinary field?
It’s funny that everyone asks me that. I didn’t grow up in one of those “cooking” families. I went to Radford University to study social work. I realized that I was on the wrong track and that I wanted a career working with my hands, something that was creative in nature. I actually discovered my love of food and cooking during my time in Radford.
What key training or experience allowed you to separate yourself from the other students that were nominated for the award?
I have been told it was three things – my academics, my performance in the kitchen over the last year as far as my skill level, and my positive attitude. I am one of those people who perform well under pressure.
How has Reynolds helped you accomplish your dreams of working in the culinary field?
I spent time researching and trying to decide on a culinary program and a friend recommended the Reynolds program to me. I have found it to be affordable, a top notch education with professors who are truly invested in their students.
What would be your advice for someone looking at going into the culinary field?
I would definitely recommend this program. I’m sorry I won’t be here when the new culinary building is completed. It’s not just about the food, it’s the people and the affordability, too.
If you could only have one last meal in Richmond, where would it be and what would you order?
I have to give you two answers. I’m a sandwich lover, so for a sandwich I would go to Union Market in Church Hill and order the Chicken Tarragon sandwich with Potato Salad. For a meal, I would pick Edo Squid and order the Squid Genovese with Spaghetti.
What opportunities are you currently exploring?
I’m thinking about applying to serve my internship at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs which will hopefully lead to an employment opportunity. My long term goal is to be an executive chef and run my own kitchen someday.