|Centre cooks up a chef
RELEASED: Feb. 10, 2005
DANVILLE, KYJunior Duncan Paynter proves that you can pursue any career with a Centre College degree.
The history major from Danville aspires to be a chef. With the help of his Centre connection, his dream may soon become reality.
Paynter began cooking in middle school by breaking his mother's rules and using the stove when she wasn't at home. Soon Paynter proved he wasn't going to burn the house down and gained his mother's approval.
"I remember the first night I realized he had a real talent for cooking," says Paynter's mother, Mary McKee Hunt '80, director of development for Centre. "He asked if he could make dinner for both of us. All I had in the refrigerator was chicken. With that chicken, and what little else he managed to find in the kitchen, he came up with the most incredible lemon chicken rice dish. On the one hand, I was very pleasantly surprised. On the other, I was a little jealous!"
Paynter landed one of his first cooking jobs at Louisville's Salsa Grille, thanks to Centre alumnus Don Blackburn '69, the restaurant's owner.
Last summer, he worked at Lilly's, a four-star restaurant in Louisville whose executive chef, Kathy Cary, is widely known as one of the top chef's in the country.
Centre doesn't offer cooking classes, but Paynter says his French courses were of great help last fall. While he was studying in Strasbourg, Milton Reigelman, who oversees Centre's study-abroad programs, helped arrange an internship in the kitchen at the highly regarded seafood restaurant L'Alsace à Table. Paynter says he would have been lost in the kitchen without the French he had learned.
"Duncan is so fortunate to have so many good people helping him out along the way," Hunt says. "I'm grateful to them all."
Paynter claims he hasn't had any major catastrophes in the kitchenjust a few cuts and burns. In fact, he may have made a few saves.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't confess that he's bailed me out a couple of times when I was really, really close to ruining something big at family dinners," Hunt says. "It won't be long before the important dinners will be turned over to him, and I'll just take care of cleaning up his horrible, horrible messes!"
Paynter says he enjoys making several types of food, but friends seem to have a favorite. "People always like my mashed potatoes for some reason," he says. The secret: lots of butter, cream, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.
For Christmas and birthdays, Paynter says he receives a lot of cookbooks and kitchen utensils, but he admits he can't cook without his Santoku knife, an all-purpose knife.
After graduating from Centre, Paynter hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
"I think it's great he knows at such a young age what he wants to do," Hunt says. "Many people spend years trying to figure that out."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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