CHARLESTON – Gilbert native, Karie Montgomery recently received the American Culinary Federation West Virginia Chapter (ACF WV) Student of the Year.
When asked about discovering her love of cooking, Montgomery explained that she has always loved being in the kitchen. “From the time I was a young girl, I always loved being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother,” Montgomery stated.
However, Montgomery states that her passion took off in High School as a culinary student in the Pro Start program. “I didn’t know culinary was my passion until Chef Sizemore came to Gilbert High School and showed me how to make Chicken Marsala. He showed me everything that went into the dish and why items were cooked the way they were, and from there I was hooked,” Montgomery said. “ I was in his Pro Start class my 11th and 12th grade years and they were the best years of my high school education. Within those two years, I learned so much from Chef Sizemore, not only about how to cook food but the time, energy, and respect you have to have for this career path. Those classes showed me that I could create anything on a plate if I put enough time and passion into it,” Montgomery continued.
Dan Sizemore, the Pro Start Chef at Mingo Central High School recalls having Montgomery as a student stating, “She was a great student. She was in love with it from the start.”
Sizemore has also had Montgomery speak to the current students enrolled in Pro Start and share her culinary passion with students who may one day follow in her footsteps. “The students really respond to her in a positive way,” Sizemore explained.
Following high school, Montgomery took classes at a local community college until she was able to afford to move to Charleston to participate in the culinary program at the Carver Career Center. Montgomery was also able to obtain full time employment through the program at a fine dining establishment. “After I graduated from high school, I went on to a community college until I could afford to move to Charleston and attend culinary classes at Carver Career Center. While attending college, I was also able to get a full-time job at Edgewood Country Club who goes through Carver to help apprentice chefs. The establishment that I work at is a fine-dining restaurant, so I have learned, made and created dishes that I never thought possible,” Montgomery explained.
In February, Montgomery discovered that she had been nominated for the ACF WV Student of the Year and recalls her experience in winning the award. Montgomery stated, “I found out I won during one of the monthly WVACF meetings. I could feel my heart beat a little bit faster every time they would tally a vote. When they told me ‘Congratulations Ms. Montgomery, it seems you are the student of the year’, it brought tears to my eyes. All of my classmates and even the other nominee congratulated me and told me that I deserved to win. Winning swelled my heart with joy. It felt wonderful to not only get my first award for doing what I love, but to also be recognized for all of the blood, sweat, tears and hard-work that went into everything.”
After Montgomery graduates from the culinary program in May, she has made tentative plans for the future. “My future plans are undecided. Of course, I am going to still be a chef and be cooking (it’s the only thing I would want to do for the rest of my life) but in a few years, I hope to possibly move to Richmond, Va. to be closer to my family and pursue culinary paths in the city,” Montgomery explained.
Montgomery shares her advice for those interested in pursuing a career in the culinary field explaining that although rewarding, the culinary field can be competitive and demanding. “As for advice to give other students and young adults with a passion for cooking; anything is possible in this field. Never give up on something that you think is too much for you. When the day comes that you have made a dream or vision come true; it will be one of the most rewarding feelings. The feeling comes with knowing that you put your heart and hard work into something you love. However, remember this is no easy field either. There will be cuts, burns, long days and nights on your feet. We are a community that does have competition but we respect other chefs and cooks. Without our competitions, we wouldn’t strive to be better and make better. We are a community that has mutual respect for others because we know how hard it can be, and how amazing some dishes can come out,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery concludes with explaining that she is proud of her achievements and gives credit to the support of her family and Chef Sizemore with the Pro Start program. “I am immensely proud of the person and chef I have become. I can’t wait to see what I can do in the future. I would not be the person I am today without the help and support from my mother, grandmother and especially Chef Sizemore. He is the one that truly lit a fire inside of me and saw my true potential. He was my first mentor. He and the Pro Start program will always hold a special place inside of my heart,” Montgomery said.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)