HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Dianne Wood was ready to pursue a passion.
After two decades of juggling different jobs and being laid off in one industry, Wood decided to enroll in Wallace State’s Academy of Culinary Arts at 45 years old.
She’s flourished ever since and was recently named the Student of the Year by the Alabama Chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The recognition is truly icing on the cake for Wood as she has already completed the necessary studies for her associate degree in Culinary Arts. She will graduate from Wallace State in May.
“The award was a total surprise. It makes me feel important and shows that a lot of hard work has paid off. I have two very good instructors who work with me as well,” Wood said. “I’m thankful I took advantage of the door that opened once I was laid off. Culinary Arts was something I was always interested in. It has turned into something I have a passion for and something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
The Birmingham Chapter of the ACF annually recognizes a top student, chef, educator and apprentice within its organization. Wood was nominated for the award by her instructors.
“We are particularly excited because this award stretches across the entire state. There’s a lot of competition, so it’s very special to Dianne and to us,” said Wallace State Chef John Wilson. “Dianne is a wonderful student. She came to us from the steel industry and has absolutely excelled. Whenever you ask for volunteers, she’s the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. It’s great when you have students with Dianne’s mentality.”
Wood, a resident of Corner, can indeed be found across campus or in the community promoting Wallace State’s Academy of Culinary Arts program, including sharing the department’s delicacies with visiting students. One of her favorite aspects is the Wednesday lunches the Academy of Culinary Arts serves to the public. The lunches are available to students and the community from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters with various themed-meals throughout.
“This program is great. It’s accredited by the ACF and allows you many networking opportunities. When I get my diploma, I’ll already be a certified culinarian through the ACF,” Wood said. “Not only are you taught how to cook, but you are taught how to be in charge, whether you’re owning your own restaurant or an executive chef of another place. You need the background taught here in order to work your way up.”
Wood has persevered through her journey to Wallace State. She dropped out of high school at 17 and worked various jobs, including in restaurants and at a chicken plant, while also earning her GED. She worked at a steel mill before enrolling at Wallace State.
Along with her most recent achievement, Wood earned a silver medal last year in the state SkillsUSA Culinary competition. She also works at Publix in Gardendale.
As Wood wraps up her Wallace State story over the next two months, she’s even more excited to walk across the stage at Tom Drake Coliseum to receive her associate degree.
“I’ve never truly graduated from anything before. It’s going to be another special moment,” Wood said.
For more information about Wallace State’s Academy of Culinary Arts program, visit http://www.wallacestate.edu/programs/technical-division/culinary-arts
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.
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