Kristin Montgomery Stephens, Warren County Career Center Culinary Class of 2012, was selected for induction into the WCCC Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame for 2022. She teaches Family and Consumer Science in the WCCC satellite program at Springboro High School. She was nominated by her former instructor, Kate Cole.
“Kristin was a model student at Little Miami High School,” Ms. Cole said in her nomination letter. “She was an honor roll student, a Lady Panther soccer starter on the varsity team and worked part-time at a local pizzeria. She arrived at WCCC with what we CTE teachers call ‘transferable skills.’ Her family can attest she was born with a passion for culinary arts long before building her first pie at the local Marco’s Pizza. I believe the discipline she developed participating in athletics also prepared her for success in the kitchen. Professional cooking requires physical stamina, focus under pressure and you've got to play by the rules. Kristin's competitive spirit led her to participate in the Culinary Team skill event sponsored by FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America).”
Kristin’s mother, Holly Montgomery, has worked at the WCCC for 30 years. Her sister attended the Teacher Academy at WCCC. Her cousin attended Diesel Mechanics at WCCC. She also met her husband, Dustin, at the school. He completed the Fire Science Academy in 2012.
“Growing up, I would go to my grandparents’ house when I got dropped off of the school bus, they were our neighbors, and my grandma and I would bake or cook something almost every single day,” Kristin said about the beginning of her love of cooking and baking. “Our ‘specialty’ was making pies together. My mother would share this information with the Culinary teachers at the WCCC, Teresa Collins and Kate Cole, and they gave her some information about the program that they thought would interest me. I decided originally to go to the WCCC to help accelerate my future in a career without spending as much time in further schooling. Culinary was my first choice for lab and I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the program.”
Upon graduating from Little Miami and the WCCC, she started taking classes at Sinclair Community College. Two years later, she received an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts and a Restaurant Management Certification from Sinclair Community College. She used these tools to become the Culinary Arts Teaching Assistant at the WCCC. Working as Ms. Cole's assistant from 2017 to 2020, which included opening and operating a student-run restaurant called "The Mustang Café," she knew that she wanted to continue her career into becoming a Career Tech Educator for Culinary. She accepted a full time Culinary teaching position at a school in Dayton and began the process of obtaining a CTE teaching license through Bowling Green State University. She was hired back at WCCC in 2021, teaching FCS at Springboro, and earned her license in July 2022.
“I would love to return to teaching a Culinary Arts program in the future,” she said. “I have a strong passion for making and preparing food and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with students and observing them using that knowledge in the classroom and during catering events. I have greatly enjoyed my time as a student, a banquet advisor, a Culinary Assistant, and now a CTE teacher with the WCCC. I look forward to what my future holds with the school district.”
Kristin has fond memories of her time as a WCCC student. Two that stand out to her the most, one from junior year and one from senior year, and both involve the repetition of making the same recipe over and over until it becomes second nature, and comes out perfectly.
“One day during my Junior year we were going over the ‘egg’ chapter of our textbook,” she said. “Ms. Collins would cover the information in the textbook about different ways to make eggs, she would then demonstrate the ways we just went over, then it was our turn to make each type of egg. I was doing fine until I got to the scrambled eggs. I personally, like my scrambled eggs to not be runny. I prepared them how I would at home, took them to Ms. Collins and she told me this is not the ‘restaurant standard’ and told me I would need to make them again. I was a little upset but I went and made them again, and again, and again. I ended up making seven batches of scrambled eggs until I finally made a batch that she would accept. I learned that day the importance of cooking for a ‘standard’ and not your personal liking. That is something that I now share and express with my current students each year.
“During my senior year, I competed in a team cooking competition for FCCLA. They would not give you the ‘official’ recipes ahead of time, only options of what they could potentially be. This meant we got a lot of practice in with recipes that we may not even have had to prepare. One of the options was salmon; and I am not a fish person. We practiced making salmon at least three days a week for almost a month straight. I would take the salmon down to the Fire Science lab and offer it to the students there to eat. It got to the point that no one would eat it because they had eaten so much salmon that it no longer sounded appetizing. The other option was a black raspberry chicken breast. I made this while at home many times over a month period as well. My family also got so sick of eating this over and over. I haven't made either recipe again until about a year ago and all I could think about was making it so many times in such a short timeline!”
Kristin has a love of food and food preparation, but prefers teaching over working in a commercial kitchen as a chef.
“I enjoy simply sharing my passion of preparing and cooking food,” she said. “I get students that may have never even boiled water for pasta before and by the end of the year we are making cinnamon rolls from scratch together. Or I've had a student that wanted absolutely no part of working in the front (serving) area of the Mustang Cafe. I sat them down, told them why it was important that they also worked in the front and how it was going to help them improve their skills for work. They finally agreed to ‘try it out.’ The following day the student approached me and asked if they could ONLY work in the front for the rest of their shifts. For teachers, it's about seeing that growth in your students.”
Culinary Instructor Kate Cole said she has enjoyed watching Kristin find her career path, from starting work after high school in a local bistro, to earning her college degree and returning to WCCC as a teaching assistant. After teaching in Dayton for a year and then coming back to WCCC as a satellite instructor, she has carved out a career she loves and looks forward to coming to work every day.
“Kristin took a leap of faith to commit to WCCC as a sophomore, embraced the WCCC culture, maximized all the CTE certificate opportunities, scooped up thousands of dollars in scholarship awards, earned an Associate’s Degree with practically no out-of-pocket expenses and returned full circle to join our teaching staff,” Cole said. “I’m so proud of her.”