Wearing a red bandana and white chef’s jacket with red shoulders, Ginger St. Clair is dressed just like the chefs competing on the hit reality television show “Hell’s Kitchen”.
However, the 2015 Vincennes University graduate is not a contestant on the cooking show featuring fiery, British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Ginger is a chef at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen, a restaurant modeled after the show in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace.
A Facebook video shows Ginger working alongside Ramsay on the line preparing one of his signature dishes, pan-seared scallops. He pats her on the back and tells her good job.
That compliment is why scallops is the Princeton, Indiana native’s favorite dish to cook in the restaurant, which was voted No. 4 in the 2019 USA Today Readers’ Choice Best New Restaurant contest.
“That’s what I have on video of Gordon complimenting my cooking on,” Ginger says. “This is my dish.”
Working the line with Ramsay isn’t an everyday occurrence.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Ginger says. “No one tells you when he is coming in. He just shows up so you can’t really prepare.”
Ginger relies on her training to get her through. She developed her cooking skills at VU and earned an associate degree in culinary arts.
“I thank (VU) for giving me the foundation and helping me step up the basic skills set that transcend into every style of cooking,” she says. “The small class sizes helped the professor to student relationship. It helped me tremendously running the lab classes like you’re going to work for eight hours. They taught you how to use a lot of big equipment I had never used before and now I see them again at work, which is really nice.”
What VU teaches beyond cooking skills is just as valuable if you ask Ginger. Lessons that help make graduates more marketable and helps them shine during interviews.
“VU gives you a lot of the certifications like purchasing that actually helped make my resume stand out more,” Ginger says. “(An) interviewing class was probably the biggest asset that is offered. The course showed you how you should write your resume, this is how you should interview, and these are the kinds of questions you should ask your interviewer.
“You can be the best cook in the world, but if you can’t interview well you’re not getting a job.”
Tapping in to what she learned at VU gave Ginger a leg up during while interviewing for Hell’s Kitchen.
“It was nice to have because they threw some wild questions at us.”
Ginger also raved about the culinary arts program’s versatility. She praises the university for requiring students take courses in both savory and sweet foods.
“It helps because VU just doesn’t focus on one style,” she said. “One of the dishes we had (at Hell’s Kitchen) at the beginning was this foie gras that had a carrot cake piece on it. We had to make the carrot cake in house and a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, I’ve never made cakes before’. I was like, ‘How did you never make cakes? Didn’t you do it in college? Doesn’t everybody have a bake shop class in college?’ I took the initiative and made the cakes for the restaurant.”
She also took a huge gamble when she moved to Las Vegas and it is paying off big time.
Working at Hell’s Kitchen - which reportedly received around 12,000 reservations in 10 days around the time it opened - is a beaming source of pride for Ginger who has been there since day one.
“This is probably going to be one of the best jobs that I’ve had,” she says.
It appears Ginger is right where she should be.
“We knew early on she was a committed student and this is what she wanted to do the rest of her life,” VU Department of Hospitality Assistant Professor and Chef Jeff Hume says. “She had the drive to continue on, get out of a small town, take a chance and set out to Las Vegas, and she’s made a name for herself.”