A strong love of food has always been an inspiration in Chef Bill Wiklendt’s life.
“I’ve never felt like cooking was a job, but a passion for the love of food,” said Wiklendt.
Originally from Pittsburg, PA, Wiklendt has been around food his entire life. His Polish-German background attributed to the lifestyle.
“If there was a wedding, a funeral, or a baptism, there was food. A party or funeral resulted in cooking with my mother. Family, religion, and community were important to us,” said Wiklendt.
After realizing cooking was what he ultimately wanted to pursue, Wiklendt attended multiple universities to study the subject and how it operated. He earned multiple degrees in hotel-motel management, culinary arts, business management, and education.
His education has served him well. In 1979, he became a member of the American Culinary Federation. He’s also earned himself the titles of ACF Certified Executive Chef, ACF Certified Culinary Educator, and an induction into the American Academy of Chefs.
In 1988, his wife wanted a change. After moving around multiple times due to his job as a chef, she wanted to see the Northwest. The couple moved to Seattle from Cincinnati, where he took a job as the Food Service Director and Executive Chef at Pesch Health Group.
While working under the health group, Chef Wiklendt was honored with the 1990 Washington State Chef of the Year award.
A few years later, still working as a chef in Seattle, Wiklendt finally had the opportunity to fulfill his dream of teaching when a spot opened at SPSCC in 1994. Through he had never formally worked as a teacher before, the demos and day classes he had experience with proved to be useful and he was hired. He has been working for the college since.
He made many changes since getting the job in 1994. The entire curriculum for the college’s Culinary Arts Program was rewritten and a link was created to implement community college courses that are companioned with Thurston Country Environmental Services, The National Restaurant Association, and the American Culinary Federation.
For the most part, Wiklendt works with the second year students in the Percival Dining room. He guides them through learning the ropes of waitstaff, restaurant baking, sautéing, and becoming a sous chef.
It’s the students, he said, that make the job rewarding.
“Students. It’s all about the students. Watching them reach those levels of success and understanding. It’s like a light goes on and they get it. It doesn’t always happen, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, but [it’s all about] seeing the growth both individually and together as a group,” said Wiklendt.
The field has always managed to keep him inspired as well.
“Never had two days be the same, never,” said Wiklendt.
The ups of his career, though remarkable, have left him feeling humble.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a good career, it’s been really enjoyable,” he said. “I love food and I love people. Something I’ve learned though is that if you don’t like your job, change yourself, change your situation, or get a new job. It won’t change itself.”