Puttin’ on the Ritz at Northeast Tech

Puttin’ on the Ritz at Northeast Tech
Posted on 10/02/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Puttin’ on the Ritz at Northeast TechIt’s not every day that teenagers have the chance to learn cooking skills alongside a professional chef – that is unless they happen to be a student in Northeast Tech’s Culinary Arts program. Chef Danny Morrison is one of the newest instructors to be hired at Northeast Tech’s Pryor Campus, and after a successful career on the high-end restaurant circuit, he’s thrilled to be coming home.

“I started out bussing tables at Goldie’s in Pryor, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I wanted to be a chef. Ironically, I was cooking to pay for college,” Morrison said. “My first real job was as a short order cook at the nation’s highest grossing IHOP, and that’s where I learned the basic skill set that still serves me today.”

Once Morrison found his passion, his devotion to his newfound career quickly resulted in a series of professional successes.

“I became a sous chef at Freddie Paul’s Steakhouse, and from there doors began opening,” Morrison said. “I was fortunate to work with reputable chefs like the one who ran the iconic Hotel Bel Air in the 80s and 90s – he became the chef for President Clinton.”

Eventually, Morrison’s career led him to the Arrabell Resort in Vail, Colorado, where he worked as the chef at the property’s high-end restaurants.

“On one side of the property we operated a sports bar and tavern, and on the other end was the high-end bistro with plates as high as $200,” Morrison said. “It was great fun. From there I went to the Evergreen Lodge where I was able to open a restaurant, and eventually I took a position at the Ritz Carlton that allowed me to travel to several Ritz properties across the nation.”

It was while working on the resort properties that Morrison first discovered his talent for teaching.

“At the Ritz, a lot of my employees were in culinary school but lacked the basic foundation of cooking,” said Morrison. “‘Who taught you to do it like that?’ I would ask them. So I began to teach them, and over course of the year they would become confident and ready to go by day 365. I loved seeing that, and that’s when I realized I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn how to cook.”

After spending three years at the Ritz Carlton, Morrison learned of a job opening in his hometown – the Culinary Arts Instructor at Northeast Tech – and seized the opportunity. However, the timing of the interview proved a bit of a challenge.

“Two days before the interview, my wife gave birth to our second child, so there was no way I could leave her for the interview,” Morrison said.

Given the unique set of circumstances, officials at Northeast Tech made arrangements for Morrison to interview via Skype.

“I'd never done a Skype interview before and neither had they. I was a lot more nervous because they couldn’t see me in person and shake my hand,” Morrison said. “I knew all the other candidates could be there in-person for their interviews, so I felt a bit of a disadvantage.”

Despite his nerves, the cross-country interview went well, and in September Morrison arrived on campus for his first day as an instructor.

“When I worked in the industry I would get frustrated with staff who didn't know proper techniques, and now
I get the chance to teach these students proper techniques from the beginning so they won't have a chef asking them the questions I asked of my staff,” said Morrison.

The Culinary Arts program at Northeast Tech is a two-year program in which students learn multiple aspects of commercial food preparation and service. Students are in the kitchen every day learning new skills which are reinforced with classroom instruction. All second-year students gain experience as sous chefs responsible for limited oversight of first-year students during routine kitchen operations.

“A sous chef is second in line in a kitchen, so I give them a small taste of what that role is like,” Morrison said. “When they leave this program, I honestly believe they will be ready to go into any culinary industry they want. I'm excited to give back to the culinary industry, to give back to the community and to help shape the students' futures.”
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