For the past 13 years, one constant has remained at Lane Community College’s Culinary Arts Program and his name is Chef Clive Wanstall. Named by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Executive Chef, Wanstall has been molding minds and helping the program move along the path of sustainability since 1998. The jovial albeit humble chef describes his teaching style as a journey with students, noting, “I’m very free spirit and kind of a rule bender.” He feels students learn best in a comfortable environment, with a dash of fun.
Wanstall began his career in London, after graduating from a small culinary school in Kent, England. When he was 26 he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and began working at the Knoxville Hilton – the spot where he met his future wife. After spending years in California and Hawaii, the couple and their two children made the move to Eugene in 1987, whereupon Wanstall began work at Ambrosia.
It was during his time at Ambrosia that a peer approached Wanstall about being on the advisory committee for LCC. He agreed, and after a few years a staff position came about. “I was the chair of the advisory committee at the time, and it was our job to review the job description and the qualifications…I was looking at [the job description] thinking, dude, I could do that.”Chef Clive shows a student how to make homemade pasta. Photo by: Jackie Varriano
Shortly after he began teaching, he helped to implement a composting program. After a few years he worked with a groundskeeper to begin an herb garden and helped students start a learning garden. Now the composting program, herb garden, and learning garden have “gone crazy” says Wanstall, with the student restaurant harvesting half of their produce from the garden. He credits LCC’s administration, especially President Mary Spilde for helping the program move so successfully towards shrinking their footprint and implementing sustainable practices.“The school has done such amazing work. Mary allows us to be creative, and that’s really where we’ve been fortunate,” says Wanstall.
Curriculum-wise, Wanstall is a big part of the program’s student-run restaurant, The Renaissance Room. Open between three and four days per week from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., students have the opportunity to play every role in a working restaurant. Wanstall, another instructor and an assistant plan the menu for the seasonally-focused fine dining lunch, but he stresses students “have that sense of ownership,” and is of the philosophy that a restaurant is more than the facility, rather “the restaurant is the people that is in it.”When it comes to rockstar students, he laughs as he says, “Yeah, and they disappear and that’s ok – I did the same thing.” He encourages students to get out and “get some experience and then come back.” “The whole plan for me is I’m trying to get decent restaurants in Eugene, so I can get places to go out. I have a responsibility to make a contribution – maybe for selfish reasons,” jokes Wanstall.
The best part of his job according to Wanstall is the students, and he wouldn’t trade his work with them for anything. “I’ve got a great gig, I love my job. Some people want to die on the way to work; I want to die on the way home.”