It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday in November, and Alan Scheidhauer is standing in the front of a group of people, doing what he has for most of his life. He is cooking, but more so, the chef and director of operations at the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center is teaching.
The class before him today is not the typical student he sees, but an Osher Lifelong Learning class seeking direction about breads and rich dough.
Scheidhauer, for his part, looks entirely calm. He vacillates between jokes and rules and warnings and factoids about yeast, flour and baking.
This is the last time he’ll stand in a classroom. After 28 years of shaping and leading the culinary program at Greenville Technical College, Scheidhauer is stepping away from the classroom. At the age of 58, he is young, but the seasoned chef is nothing if not astute at understanding timing, and for him, now is the time to go.
Scheidhauer steps away from nearly three decades of teaching, leaving behind a career that has included building the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas and shaping the curriculum and within the past five years, building the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center (CHI). Both have evolved from needs Scheidhauer saw in the community. The former, a need for more professional culinary training in the Upstate, and the latter, a need for quick jobs training and continuing education to fill a need within a growing industry.
He leaves behind a career full of accolades, a legacy of culinary prowess that touches nearly every part of Greenville’s culinary scene.
“I hope what I do every day is a reflection of him,” said Patrick Wagner, who was one of Scheidhauer’s first students and who has worked alongside the chef as a culinary instructor at Greenville Tech for two decades. “Anybody you’ve worked with who’s been a mentor, a teacher, been involved in your life in so many different ways, it’s kind of like you making somebody’s recipe and you can still tell it’s their recipe even though you’ve made it your own.”
A natural talent in the kitchen
If you ask Scheidhauer how he got to where he is, he smiles, throws his head back and laughs.
It is an infectious laugh that perhaps hides and reveals all at once.
To begin, you must look at the chef’s hands. Scheidhauer has always been good with his hands. Those hands helped him learn to type 45 words a minute when he first made the transition to teaching, and they helped him learn to ice cakes with precision and speed.
His father was equally skilled. As a kid growing up in the Southern Hills area of Pittsburgh, Scheidhauer thought he’d follow in his father’s path, perhaps working a solid trade like electrician or plumber, but at the age of 13, the young chef wanted to make some money and that led him to a local bakery.
Scheidhauer loved working.
“It was the idea that I could become self-sufficient and non-dependent,” said Scheidhauer, who was one of six kids. “My dad worked so hard. It wasn’t really helping him; it was helping him not have me to depend on him.”
By the age of 15, Scheidhauer had saved enough money to buy his own car.
“Couldn’t drive it yet,” he said with a laugh.
At the bakery, Scheidhauer was immediately drawn to the cake decorators. He was fascinated at the way they moved, creating such intricate designs but with a sort of athletic speed.
One day, he asked if he could try it himself. He took a container of icing, and a piping bag home, and spent hours practicing on the back of a sheet pan. He’d pipe flowers and other decorations, then scoop up the icing, return it to the piping bag and try again.
Not long after, Scheidhauer began working alongside the decorators and he grew more fascinated with baking and pastry.
It was also at this time that Scheidhauer met the teacher he lovingly calls “Mrs. C.” Mrs. C was a high school food sciences teacher who saw something in the young student, and she urged him to consider a culinary career.
With Mrs. C’s help, Scheidhauer was able to split his day working at the bakery and school. Under her guise, Scheidhauer was able to compete in culinary competitions (then only for local trade schools).
At 16, Scheidhauer won first place in a wedding cake contest, beating out the college-age culinary students.
“I just found a passion,” Scheidhauer said. “I have a lot of respect for teachers because of that and was one of the reasons I wanted to give back.”
Carving a culinary path
When Scheidhauer talks about his life, he has kind of a matter-of-fact way of sharing that belies the true effort it has taken to get where he is. He has devoted 44 years to the culinary profession, he can do almost anything in a kitchen and do it with a speed that is inconceivable to the average person.
But Scheidhauer appears much more comfortable explaining the science of flours than himself.
It was Mrs. C that helped Scheidhauer apply to the Culinary Institute of America, becoming the first in his family to go to college.
There, his passion grew, as did his skills. He was voted most likely to succeed, an honor that remains one of the more meaningful honors of his life.
Post-graduation, Scheidhauer worked at various restaurants and then found his way into the prestigious corporate club scene. He followed a job to Greenville in 1990 with Club Corporation of America, becoming the executive chef at The Commerce Club.
It was during that time, that Scheidhauer first connected with Greenville Technical College. Back then, the school’s culinary program relied on industry professionals to teach many of the cooking techniques.
Wagner, then a student, remembers being a little intimidated by having Scheidhauer as a teacher.
“It was like man the chef from the Commerce Club is gonna teach our class,” he said, reminiscing. “That was a huge deal.”
Even then, Wagner saw something special in the chef who would one day be a colleague.
“I think that one of the things that has really done well for Alan it’s the magic of knowing how to motivate somebody,” Wagner said. “You want the same goal out of everybody. Some people need encouragement, some need a hand dragging them along. Some need to be pushing somebody. He has that intuitiveness.”
While Scheidhauer enjoyed teaching, the decision to do it full time really came down to family, he says. As an executive chef, Scheidhauer had missed being a father. The demands and the hours of the job meant he’d essentially missed the first four years of his son, Jordan’s life.
Teaching, he reasoned, would allow him more work-life balance. It proved to provide him much more.
When Scheidhauer joined the team at Greenville Tech in 1993, the college’s culinary program was focused more on the hospitality side than the culinary arts side of the business.
But Greenville was growing, and so was the need for more robust culinary program.
In 2008, when the college acquired the northwest campus, then president Dr. Thomas Barton asked Scheidhauer to help move the culinary program to that campus. Scheidhauer took it as an opportunity to grow the program.
He spent countless months researching other programs around the country and designing a space that would best fill the needs of students and that could evolve with a changing culinary landscape.
The final design included intricate but functional instructional kitchens and recasting the program to offer more culinary arts. Scheidhauer renamed the program, too, The Culinary Institute of the Carolinas, a title that conveyed professionalism and distinction.
“Even an expert in their field does not guarantee you can teach, that is a skill in itself,” said Dr. Keith Miller, current president of Grenville Technical College. “Alan brings the background and the expertise in the culinary field but what gives him the ability to relay that information to the student is completely his approach. His approach is not condescending. He believes very strongly that everybody can be successful in the career they choose.
“His expectations are though that you have to put in the work to make it happen.”
Filling a new need
On a recent Monday, Scheidhauer is reflecting on Greenville’s changing culinary scene. The landscape has grown exponentially, he says, pushing the need for trained talent, but there is only one executive chef in a kitchen. The need for culinary skills crosses many arenas, from not just restaurants but hotels, hospitals, schools, country clubs and grocery stores.
Scheidhauer has always pushed students to think broadly about opportunity, and he has always done the same. That is how the Culinary Institute’s sustainable agriculture program came to be, and it is partly how the CHI came to be, too.
The community and the industry needed access to quick jobs training and continuing education. Scheidhauer, along with a team of food and beverage experts and college officials thus conceived of CHI. The newest piece of the Greenville Technical College culinary program sits at Poe West, in the heart of West Greenville.
CHI is distinct for its ability to offer classes for both people within the industry and outside of it. The duality allows CHI to offer scholarships to people seeking professional job training but not necessarily a two-year culinary degree.
Scheidhauer is clearly proud.
But you have to know when to step away, he says. This is not an end, but a chance to learn more — piano is on his list among other things. And, as with his decision to go into teaching, the one to step away from it is rooted in family.
Now, he has grandchildren.
“It’s time to be grandpa,” he said, letting forth a deep laugh.
“When I started learning this business, there were so many things, it was like I can’t get bored doing this,” Scheidhauer said. “There are so many different avenues for me to learn.”
Scheidhauer pauses and then finishes his thought.
“There still is.”
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for the Greenville News. She loves the stories recipes tell and finds inspiration in the people behind them. When she’s not exploring local food, she can be found running, both for pleasure and to keep up with her 6-year-old twins. Reach her at [email protected], or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook atfacebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.
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