Published October 26, 2016
CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – Navajo Technical University (NTU) announced the hiring of alumni JD Kinlacheeny as the university’s new catering coordinator where he will be responsible for organizing all outside and in-house catering requests from NTU’s Food Services and Culinary Arts and Baking programs.
Kinlacheeny has been working with Navajo Tech for the past two years where he has been running NTU’s “Healthy Cooking and Eating in Indian Country” program, an initiative that trains food preparation staff at Bureau of Indian Education schools on how to prepare and present Native foods in a healthy way. The experience is something that NTU culinary arts instructor Brian Tatsukawa feels will be a benefit to the university, especially as NTU seeks to extend its presence throughout the region.
“His prior knowledge helps tremendously,” explained Tatsukawa, who before Kinlacheeny’s hiring was balancing NTU’s catering requests while also teaching in NTU’s culinary arts program. “He’ll give us added value because we now have someone strictly dedicated to increasing business. We’ll also have more consistency with our caterings because there’s just one person people can go to now.”
Prior to working for NTU, Kinlacheeny was a student in NTU’s culinary arts program where he thrived in the kitchen and went on to earn the designation of a Certified Sus Chef with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) in 2015. Such a designation would grant a chef the opportunity to work in any major city in the country; however, Kinlacheeny choose to stay home to be near family.
Now that he’s hired on as NTU’s catering coordinator, Kinlacheeny would like to use his unique skill set to help distinguish NTU’s catering style. “I mainly try to keep it old school,” stated Kinlacheeny, who is originally from Chilchinbito, AZ but now resides in Smith Lake, NM with his family. “I try to bring in old techniques in making traditional foods. I twist it up a little, but not too much.”
NTU’s catering services is a unique aspect to its ACF-accredited culinary arts and baking programs, allowing students real world experience while working for small and large-scale caterings. In September, NTU catered to over 400 people at a fundraising benefit dinner for the Rehoboth McKinley County Health Services, while last week they catered an appreciation luncheon for about 30 people honoring the 2016-2017 Miss Navajo Nation Ronda Joe.
According to Kinlacheeny, the diversity of caterings NTU is able to perform is something that sets it apart, but also the level of skill students are able to bring to the table. “The students in the program are really passionate,” explained Kinlacheeny, who served a spring salad with a prickly pear vinaigrette, pan seared duck breast, and a three sisters sautéed side dish at the Miss Navajo Nation luncheon. “We really put in the effort to the point where we make things from scratch.”
The unique twist Kinlacheeny is able to bring to the position is something that Tatsukawa looks forward to and is something he feels will benefit NTU’s catering services in the long run. “His grandparents trained him in the old food pathways, which is an experience I can’t bring,” Tatsukawa explained. “We’re really lucky to have him on board.”
For more information about Navajo Technical University’s catering services contact Chef JD Kinlacheeny at [email protected] or by calling 505.906.5215.
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