SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Chef Jean Vendeville, Chair of Savannah Technical College's Culinary Arts Institute, had quite a night last Friday when he received two massive honors.
He has spent his life in the kitchen - half of that spent teaching others how to cook.
"I have several executive chefs, some of whom own their own pastry shops and they are all still working in the industry," Vendeville said.
What Chef Vendeville has baked up at Savannah Tech and the way he has helped the school's culinary institute rise in size and stature has gained attention everywhere, from local restaurants to his food-conscious home country.
"Nine years ago, I started with 35 students, and I've got over 200 now. We created the Baking and Pastry Program. I have on my staff some wonderful chefs working for me," he said.
Vendeville's work has been recognized by the French Government, which has bestowed on him that country's highest non-military honor, the Academic Palms, which he received at Savannah Tech's Opportunity Awards Gala last week. The award, established by Napoleon in 1808, recognizes excellence in education.
"It's great to be recognized, especially by France. I still have a lot of attachment to France and a lot of the work we are doing right now is with France, and to be recognized by them feels even better," Vendeville said.
Vendeville has established an annual student exchange with the Academy of Toulouse.
"I have five students over there right now."
Last year, one of his students traveled to Franch to compete in World Pastry Championships - contributions to the culinary world that raised eyes in France, and at Savannah Tech, where this WTOC Hometown Hero also received the school's highest honor - it's Opportunity Award - at least week's ceremony.
"I am number 14, and when you look at the people who have been recognized prior; Stratton Leopold, BY Byrd, Howard Morrison, a former governor; it's something really, really special," Vendeville said.