Ronald Ahlert, Executive Director
Chef Ron Ahlert began his career in the food industry at the age of sixteen as an apprentice in a country club. He went on to receive formal training at The New York Restaurant School. Chef Ron honed his skills in the kitchen of some of New York City and Paris’ finest restaurants. After years as an Executive Chef for a large food corporation in North Carolina, he began looking for a new challenge and found it at the Community Culinary School of Charlotte. Chef Ahlert spent six years as the teaching chef before being named the Executive Director in 2006.
George DiPaolo, Catering/Chef Manager
Chef George began working in food service at the age of sixteen. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and graphic design. While in school he continued working in bars and restaurants and after graduating he opened DiPaolo’s Pizza with his family. In 1981 he turned the pizzeria into an upscale restaurant. Soon, Chef George opened Michael’s Elegant Gatherings, a 200 seat banquet venue, and LaBodega deli. During this time he studied at the Greenbriar Resort, and taught cooking classes for the continuing education program of Miami University.
In 2001, Chef George sold DiPaolo’s Restaurant, and he and his family moved to Charlotte. He worked as a manager and chef in several restaurants. He joined Community Culinary School of Charlotte in 2014, and is grateful for the opportunity to be part of Encore Catering and contribute to the School by instructing and working with students.
Chef Rick joined the CCSC team in 2014 helping launch the school’s first Bakery curriculum. Chef Rick has had a long career in the food service and bakery industry, starting in the Navy. He is a Veteran of the U.S. Naval Submarine Service, where he managed a food service program on board the U.S.S. Sturgeon (SSN-637). After, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Nov. 1983. Chef Rick had the opportunity to work for companies like Pillsbury as Regional Training Manager and Bunge Foods as Development of New Business and Bakery Training. Along with these accomplishments, he opened several bakeries and cafés over the years – most recently 36th Street Bakery and Café.
Elizabeth Garcia, Cafe Manager
Elizabeth Garcia, best known as Ely, began her culinary career in New York City. She worked in many restaurants and bakeries in Manhattan. However, her most exciting opportunity was working in the crafty and catering department for Entertainment Partners. This gave her the chance to work on sets of famous television shows and movies such as Orange Is The New Black, Blue Bloods and Spider Man. Ely moved to Charlotte in May 2017, and shortly after joined the CCSC staff as Café Manager.
Currently, Ely is attending CPCC in the Culinary Arts Department for Cake Decorating and Design. In the future, she hopes to teach at CCSC, adding cake decorating design to the School’s curriculum. She loves working at CCSC and its purpose. Ely also has a strong love for animals and volunteers at CMPD-Animal Care and Control, making coats for dogs that are looking to be adopted.
Victor Ward, CSAC, RPS Counselor
Since joining CCSC in 2015, Victor says the favorite part of his job as Counselor is seeing the students change before his eyes! He manages CCSC’s Relapse Prevention program and oversees student services. For students and alumni, Victor provides case management, individual and group counseling, and referrals. He is also available to staff. Victor is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor, and he graduated from Winston Salem State with a degree in Urban Affairs.
Prior to CCSC, Victor spent eighteen years working in the community to help adults at Inpatient and Outpatient facilities including: First Recovery, The Sail Program and McLeod Center. He is involved at the Bold Church, helping with ministry groups for marriage and for men.
Bonnie O’Rourke, Comptroller
Bonnie has been CCSC’s Bookkeeper since 2001. Bonnie helps with grant writing and other development activities. Her previous employment includes project manager for Xenergy, Inc; accounting assistant for IVAX, Inc; and retail merchandising for Procter & Gamble. Bonnie graduated with a BA in marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
Karen joined the School in 2010. As Development Leader, she oversees grant writing. Prior to CCSC, Karen managed a communications and marketing firm, served as executive director of the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation, and was tourism director for the 10-county Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. She holds a BA from SUNY Fredonia and an MA from Vermont College.
Senico Bennett, Café Consultant
Senico’s first job was at a family restaurant in Candor, NC. Then, he attended Montgomery County Community College, while working for a local foundry. After a hard turn in life, Senico moved to Charlotte to attend a residential recovery program. It is there that he met Chef Ron and learned about Community Culinary School of Charlotte.
Senico graduated from Class 53 in 2016, and has been working at CCSC ever since. He enjoys serving guests in our Café and for Encore Catering events. He loves working at CCSC because our mission is meaningful, supporting people who seek to improve their life circumstances. Senico appreciates the opportunities he has received from CCSC.
Chef Reinhart has been Chef on Assignment at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte since 1999. Earlier, he was an instructor at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and has founded or owned or operated a number of restaurants. A prolific author and paripatetic public speaker, he has served on the School’s Board of Directors since 2008 and often is a commencement speaker for Culinary School class graduations.