Ms. Charlie Widner - Food Services Director/Culinary Arts Instructor

Life is a banquet, and most people are starving to death...
— Mame

Ms. Charlie K. Widner, CDM/CFPP, has come a long way from picking tomatoes out of her family garden in Indiana to embarking upon partnering with Willits Charter School as Food Service Director/Culinary Arts Instructor. 

Her career path as an electronic technician changed dramatically with a manufacturing plant closure in Western North Carolina. NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, financed her culinary education and in 1996, she graduated with honors from Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College with an AAS in Culinary Technology. 

Upon graduation, Chef Widner was offered a job at the prestigious Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida, a 4-star 5-diamond restaurant. Exposure to chefs and foods from all over the world expanded her knowledge of food and the hospitality industry.

Wanting to return to the mountains and fulfill a passion to educate people of all ages about food, in 1997 Chef Widner became Education and Catering Director of A Cook’s Gallery. A year later, she continued her path of sharing her culinary skills and became a Culinary Arts Instructor at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College. Chef Widner taught all aspects of culinary and hospitality education, inclusive of safety and sanitation, knife skills, cooking techniques, batch cooking and plate presentation. She has touched the lives of many through culinary education and hands on mentoring.

With a burning desire to own a café, the Tomato Jam Café was born in 2005. The Jam fulfilled a much needed local organic farm to table food venue to health conscious customers. Her whole wheat “Cat’s Head Biscuits” were recognized by Roadfood‘s Michael and Jane Stern in their book 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late: And the Very Best Places to Eat Them as the Best Biscuits in the South. The cafe was sold in 2010 to move the Widner family across country to be closer to in-laws and extended family in Northern California.

Ms. Widner was recruited for the Food & Beverage Director of a 300 resident Retirement Community in the Bay Area. During this time, with constant studying and attending on-line classes and conferences, Ms. Widner achieved her Certified Dietary Manager/Certified Food Protection Professional credentials. Ms. Widner established policies and procedures, taught and trained employees, developed cyclical menus and trained and instructed staff for preparation of menus, ordered all F&B food and supplies maintaining continuous inventory and was held accountable for all financial spend downs for all departmental accounts and payroll.

For balance and to build upon sense of self and community, enjoy and spend more time with her family, Ms. Widner is very excited to bring and share her culinary skills with the students and staff of the Willits Charter Schools.