Meet Janell Saunders: Sous Chef, Woodstock Inn and Spa
Janell Saunders can scarcely remember a time when she wasn’t cooking. She began at her grandmother’s side at age nine and has been in the kitchen ever since. As she approached her high school graduation, this Hampton, Virginia native had no doubts as to what career she would pursue. When she learned that the Culinary Institute of Virginia (CIV) was opening its doors just a short distance away, Janell wasted no time. She enrolled; and from day one, was completely absorbed by everything she saw and learned.
Like a sponge, Janell soaked up every little detail, embracing even subjects she thought she wouldn’t enjoy. “I was not looking forward to meat fabrication,” she says. “To take an entire side of beef and break it down into its various sections turned out to be quite fascinating. It was new and different. I love challenging myself and trying new things.”
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Janell’s ambition allowed her to thrive as a student. “The faculty was amazing,” she says. “They would give us as much as we could handle, always pushing us to be better, to do better.” That willingness to learn, the drive to push herself, has served her very well since graduation.
Janell began her professional career at the College of William & Mary. Then after a few years, she signed on with Colonial Williamsburg as a cook, and was soon promoted to supervisor. Earlier this year, a tremendous opportunity came her way. Janell was offered a position as the sous chef at The Woodstock Inn and Spa in Woodstock, Vermont.
Already a destination for hiking and skiing, the City of Woodstock is quickly becoming known for its cuisine. The Woodstock Inn is a leader in the farm-to-table movement. Chefs work closely with the Inn’s master gardener to select the fresh, carefully-harvested ingredients found in the restaurant’s distinctive seasonal entrees. “Being a part of this team has been a real pleasure,” says Janell. “I am learning so much from the executive chef.
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“Being a professional means you are always learning. Every day, somebody tries something new, sometimes redefining how we do things, challenging conventional thought. If you plan on having a long career, you really have to work hard and evolve. Never pass up an opportunity to try something new. There are no short cuts.”