Blog / An Interview with Chef Lampson
Shepherds College is so happy to introduce our new Culinary Arts Director, Chris Lampson.
SC: Chris, welcome to Shepherds College! We know our parents, donors and other friends are all anxious to learn more about you. Let's start off this interview by having you tell us some of the basics about yourself.
CL: Thank you! I'm so excited to be here.
I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. My favorite thing about farm life was being outdoors - working with the animals, doing field work like balling hay, chopping corn... I had two brothers and two sisters and all kinds of pets.
Prior to starting at Shepherds College, I lived in the Rochester, NY area with my wife, Karen. We've been married for over 30 years. We've both recently completed degrees: I spent two years in Providence, Rhode Island completing my Master's degree in Culinary Education, and Karen went back to college after raising our three boys to obtain her BSN. She now has two Bachelor degrees, one in Health Education and the other in Nursing. Karen is a teacher at heart, looking forward to getting her Master's in Nursing so she can teach at the college level one day. But right now, she's working her dream job! She's a Registered Nurse specializing in Labor and Delivery.
I like to travel. In April, I was able to visit my oldest son while he was in China. I climbed one of their sacred mountains while I was there. It took me over seven hours, and it was physically one of the hardest things I have ever done. I'm glad I lived to tell about it!
SC: We are too! Now, I heard you mention three boys. Tell us about them.
CL: My oldest son, Bryan, has his AAS in Biblical Studies. He just recently returned to the states after serving in China with a mission organization called Campus Target which ministers to college students. He speaks fluent Mandarin which is always interesting to observe since he is a redhead with a full red beard. Right now, he's taking a year off from missions and working at a HVAC company in New Paltz, New York, just outside of New York City. He is also working for a church as their AV/Sound guy. Bryan plans on returning to China in the long term.
My middle son, Brandon, is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College with a BS in Organizational Management. He also holds an AAS degree in Biblical Studies, both of which he managed to obtain without any student loans. He currently lives in New York City, working for Delta Airlines and a company called Cosmopolitan Management. Brandon loves to travel. He started traveling via mission trips with he was 14 years old with his first trip to India. Just recently, he came back from a European excursion covering three different countries. He actually had his backpack stolen while in Italy and had to get a new passport at the US embassy in Rome.
My youngest son, Bryce, is 22 years old. He served in the Army as an infantry man, obtaining the honor of excellence in marksmanship. He served in both Kuwait and Iraq for a short time. Now he's adulting back in Rochester and works for a company that refurbishes electrical equipment.
SC: Wow! Your family sounds amazing. So well-educated and well-traveled! So what made you decide to travel all the way from New York to a little town in Wisconsin to accept a position with Shepherds College?
CL: It was an easy decision for me.
I have spent most of my adult life in food service. I have a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. As a young man, I started working in Georgia for a small company, cooking and managing their restaurants. Then I began catering full time. I obtained my BS degree in food management from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1990. For 21 years, I worked for a company contracting food service at Christian colleges. I started out as a food service director on-site and eventually became the North East District Supervisor overseeing nine colleges. I recently finished my Master's degree in Culinary Arts education. When you take all this education and expertise in a college setting and combine it with my temperament and personality - which is very unlike the hotheads this profession has a reputation for - and my passion for teaching, I felt like an excellent fit for the position of Culinary Arts Director!
It is so rare to find a Christian college that includes culinary education. How exciting to think I could incorporate my love for teaching and learning, for food, creativity, serving people and love for the Lord all in one place!
I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with the students. I also embrace the opportunity to learn from them as well. I believe every good teacher needs to be challenged and open to learning from the students.
SC: It sounds like God has really blessed your efforts to serve Him in your career. Can you tell us about that? How have you seen God working through your culinary career?
CL: The culinary world is often a very difficult environment for a Christian to walk through. I persevered through a lot of difficult times, working weekends, long days and nights, holidays, and doing whatever it took to make the business successful. The food service field can be hard on your marriage and family; it can take an emotional toll on your life and even your health. With the Lord's help, as well as my wife's, I have learned how to balance my personal life with the demands the profession places on you. God is always faithful, and I am thankful for His grace as I've navigated the successes and failures in my career. No one starts out being perfect at what they do whether it is in their profession or personal life. I've realized that it doesn't matter if you are an expert in your field if your marriage and children suffer. Then God is not honored. A wise pastor once said, "You can't be a hero at work, but a zero at home."
God has also presented many ministry opportunities through my various jobs, especially those in the college setting. I believe we are all in full time ministry whether we have a secular job or are actually in full time ministry. Honoring God in all we do, whether it's a good work ethic or showing the love of Christ to a difficult coworker, always presents the opportunity for one to be a conduit to achieve the Lord's purposes. My wife and I have had the opportunity to have people in our home, especially students that just needed a safe place to be themselves as they navigate their own faith. Much of God's work is done through the relationships that are formed. It is an honor to be invited into someone's life to mentor them. Oftentimes, this is not done formally, but as you go about your day and work "doing it as unto the Lord."
SC: So much of what you said about how you live out your faith through your career mirrors one of the Key Behaviors that shape the Shepherds College culture - Model Christ-likeness. Can you address that topic a little more? What do you and your gifts add to the culture of our school?
CL: I really enjoy people, but at my core, I am an introvert. My approachable, non-threatening personality often confuses others because I don't fit the culinary stereotype. However, I believe that because of how I'm wired, it has allowed my assistants, employees and now students to thrive in an environment that creates an optimal place to learn, succeed and even fail with favorable outcomes. Providing an environment that encourages excellence, but allows for growth and a learning curve is a win-win situation. I have had many assistants continue on to be directors under my leadership, and have students say that they have learned just about as much about life in the kitchen as they have about food service.
I love food. I like producing food, I like tasting food, and I like cooking for groups, both large and small. I have acquired the skills to be comfortable in virtually any kitchen - I can prep, cook, and time out any meal, hot or cold, ready to eat on time. I have acquired great knife, cooking and catering skills that I wish to pass on to our students. I also have the gift of hospitality. When I cook for people, they feel taken care of; I want to do that here at Shepherds College - take care of our students, staff and guests. One of the directors that worked for me used to say, "You can taste the love." I believe that many people can produce a good meal and present it nice and pretty, but the gifting is truly complete when those who partake can "taste the love" that goes into it.
SC: You've created many special moments for those of us at Shepherds College in the short time you've been here. Can you tell us about some of the special moments you've had with the students?
CL: It's always gratifying to see a student excited at their own progress or even just passionate about what they're working on. I'm often tickled at the comments and responses of the students! One of my favorite moments so far? I was able to see the excitement on the students' faces as they worked with me and Chef LaFranzo cooking and catering a lunch. They were beaming with excitement and wanted to tell everyone what they had made!
SC: What are some recipes you're making or plan to make with the students?
CL: I plan to get the students' input on things they would like to learn and make, and then incorporate those recipes into the curriculum. Mastering something that they would eat themselves will not only serve them practically by way of life skills, but will encourage them to practice. I can then tweak any recipe to help it fit the occasion. All good chefs should have a basic repertoire of soups, salads, baked goods and entrees.
One of the things that might be helpful for the students is to have a notecard of their favorite creations to keep in their kitchens. Most people don't memorize a recipe, then sometimes they can't remember which book or website they found it on, so having some recipes "in hand" will be very helpful for the students.
SC: We love that you're continuing to plan for the students' success after graduation! What are your goals and dreams for your students? What else would you like to see them achieve after graduation?
CL: My hope is that each student would have their own dream, and that I could help them navigate benchmark goals to achieve those dreams. Successful students are my success. I want those students who chose Culinary Arts to have a passion and drive for excellence in all they do. Even the most menial tasks are important and can be done with intentionality and skill. My desire is to challenge the students to their highest achievement level possible.
Working in food service can be very challenging, but it's also very rewarding. In the future, it would be great to see and hear of students fulfilling their own dreams in the field, knowing that Shepherds College played a huge part in getting them prepared.
Thank you, Chef Lampson, for telling us your story! We are so thankful you chose to share your gifts and abilities with the students of Shepherds College.