Clarkesville, GA — They were the real “masters” behind the kitchen scenes at Augusta National Golf Club last week.
Culinary students at North Georgia Technical College had an experience of a lifetime at The Masters last week. NGTC Chef Chris Bladowski and eight of his culinary students were selected to put their skills to the test: surviving one intense week of preparing meals for the most important of guests from 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. until The Masters’ winner was crowned Easter Sunday.
“For 10 days we worked long hours and prepared for high volume in what I called a true ‘culinary boot camp’ that tested your stamina, culinary skill, mental well being from lack of sleep and the ability to work with strangers who became our good friends at the end of the tour,” said Bladowski. “The culinary logistics to put on The Masters was amazing to learn, and I found out that this 51-year-old culinary instructor could hang with the best while cooking such high volume!”
The invitation to be a chef at The Masters started in July 2022 when Bladowski took a culinary tour of Augusta National and met Executive Chef Roberto Bustillo. Bustillo was charged with finding enough assistance to prepare all the meals at the clubhouse, press building, concessions and Berkmans Place – the most exclusive hospitality spot hidden only to be found by the die-hard golf VIPs and green jacket members.
“He told me it was a huge undertaking and the usual culinary schools who have assisted in the past come from Louisiana, Charlotte and St. Louis to work the event,” said Bladowski. “According to what we learned, no one from Georgia colleges have organized and staffed the Augusta kitchens in the past. I wanted to change that.”
Bladowski told Bustillo he would be willing to come help in the kitchen and bring some of his own culinary students from NGTC who are earning money for future culinary internships abroad.
They agreed, and the recruiting process started in September. Background checks, video interviews and games of skill were used to determine if students had the best personality fit and memory capability to work in addition to their potential job placement.
In December, NGTC was notified that eight students were invited to work along with Bladowski and another NGTC alumnus, Chris Powell of Clayton. An additional culinary student from Savannah Technical College also received the coveted invitation.
The crew was stationed in different kitchens throughout the property. Three students worked in The Springs, the green jacket members only restaurant; and others worked individually in the press building, the Clubhouse, Isabella’s restaurant (with Two Star Michelin Chef Enzo Coccia from Naples, Italy) and Augusta’s.
“All the students performed well and with such great attitudes,” said Bladowski. “Every single student was invited back to work next year and will receive a letter of recommendation from The Masters. What an impressive resume they will have!”
Student Carson Lofton from Blue Ridge described the week as incredibly exciting. “It was a whirlwind of emotions that turned out to be so satisfying,” he said.
Diane Rucker from Hartwell who worked Berckmans prep kitchen said, “It really challenged you and tested your skills that you learn in college. I was able to succeed and I was so proud of myself!”
Selena Rizzo of Cornelia and worked at The Springs said, “it was a great experience that made me a stronger cook!”
Other students who participated included Shontrea Lemon from Toccoa, Pedro Diaz from Cornelia, Jace Reeder from Cornelia, Sylvia Faust from Toccoa, and Nikki Bladowski from Toccoa and NGTC alumnus Chris Powell.
Overall, the students were thrilled to cook for the many celebrities at The Masters and learn what it takes to cook at high standards and high volume. Their countdown has already begun for a 2024 repeat.
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