When SUNY Broome’s Culinary & Event Center officially opened its doors to the public on October 7, 2021, the community was warmly greeted by the College’s newest culinary employee, Associate Dean of Hospitality and Culinary & Event Center (CEC), Michael J. Stamets.
Chef Michael Stamets joined SUNY Broome from SUNY Schenectady, where he served as an Associate Professor for the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism for just under a decade. During his tenure, he developed new programming for a Mobile Food Service program, held the position as a tri-chair for the Achieving the Dream initiative, and served as the team facilitator for the Guided Pathways project. Prior to his time at SUNY Schenectady, Michael, an ACF certified executive chef and ACF competition judge, had an extensive career as both an Executive Chef and Chef de Cuisine.
Like many future cuisiniers, Michael Stamets, a native of Otego, NY, got his first introduction into the world of food through watching his grandmother and mother work in the kitchen. “I owe my love of the history of food to my grandmother and mother. I loved watching them cook and taking note of the little twists that they made to recipes. Simple things like mincing the onions v. chopping the onions really makes a difference in recipes and it taught me the importance of documenting and sharing recipes with specific details. That’s the cool part about food history! Little adaptations over time sometimes can make major differences in the outcome of the meal,” said Stamets.
Stamets received his initial culinary training through the high school culinary arts program offered through DCMO BOCES. Stamets acknowledged that his time at DCMO BOCES not only solidified his desire to become a chef, but it also sparked an inclination to one day become a culinary educator. “I had an incredible mentor at BOCES. She was so encouraging and it made me want to mirror that support for other student chefs,” reflected Stamets.
As a first generation college student, Stamets continued his culinary education at SUNY Delhi. His culinary background is based in classical French cuisine and garde manger. (Think delicious treats like salads, hors d’œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés, terrines, charcuterie.) “I found that the most successful students in my classes were the most dedicated students. They didn’t just cook during classes, they were honing their skills all of the time. One semester, I sat in my dorm room with a group of friends and 50lbs of potatoes trying to perfect the Tourné cut,” laughed Michael.
Decades in the hospitality industry has taught Michael the key to longevity. “People often tell me that they are passionate about cooking. I am wary of passion, because it can come and go. Dedication is key. Dedication is what keeps you going after working all day until midnight and then needing to be back in the kitchen at 6:00 a.m. While the work can be incredibly creative and fulfilling, it is definitely not always glamorous.”
While Stamets is looking forward to observing some of the practical, hands-on cooking courses like “Professional Cooking” and “Garde Manger,” he finds the hospitality courses to be equally, if not more, critical for a well-rounded culinary education. “Sanitation and Safety” is absolutely essential for any chef. You could have the best food in town, but that means nothing if you are not in compliance with health and safety regulations.”
Stamets believes that the front and the back of the house should not be separate, but work in harmony with one another. “The best restaurants understand that. I want our students to know how to market their restaurant and menu. That includes knowing how to plate and photograph food, as well as knowing how to use social media to the restaurant’s advantage,” said Stamets.
When he is not coordinating playdates for his rescue dog, Cheese, (he was named “Cheese” prior to his adoption,) Stamets is getting acclimated to the area. The best way to get to know your new community is through it’s restaurants, and Michael is thrilled to partner with STIR (Southern Tier Independent Restaurants) as the ideal introduction to the region’s amazing local establishments.
An average day for Stamets consists of shuttling between SUNY Broome’s Main Campus and the CEC. “I am genuinely looking forward to meeting more of the members of the campus community. Please come down and visit the CEC! We have a great team and would love for you to stop by for a tour. We promise there will always be something to eat!”
Finally, when asked “What is one thing that everyone should know how to cook?” Stamets replied without hesitation. “If you eat meat, you should know how to roast a chicken. If you can learn how to roast a chicken, you can learn how to do anything!”