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.
Rick Dudley, Bakery Chef
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.
Geoff Bragg, Chef Instructor
Chef Geoff joined CCSC in 2015 as Chef Instructor. Prior to CCSC, he had the opportunity to cook at places like Grove Park Inn, Pewter Rose Bistro and Lulu’s. Chef Geoff has spent almost all of his life in Charlotte, NC and truly feels at home here. Most of his career has revolved around the hospitality industry. His love of service led him to pursue formal training at Johnson and Wales University.
Chef Geoff serves on the board of the Cotswold Farmers Market, and mentors the East Mecklenburg High School Culinary Competition Team. He finds these professional pursuits rewarding, and ways of enriching his community. Chef Geoff is inspired to continue this pathway, recognizing the marginalized, and progressing towards a better tomorrow.
Alvin Howard, Chef Instructor
Chef Alvin came to the School in 2012 as a volunteer, and became part of the staff as a Chef Instructor in 2015. Chef Alvin has always liked helping youth, whether it be at CCSC or at the Central Church of God in the kitchen prepping meals. He started his culinary training at Central Piedmont Community College. He applied his training by working at restaurants such as Morais and Rustique, cooking classical French food. Also prior to joining CCSC, Alvin had leadership roles: as part owner of Southern Comfort Barbeque and Soul, plus, he opened his own catering business, Grassroots Catering.
Elise Barksdale, Catering Manager
Elise is a Charlotte native and has worked in a number of nonprofit settings, including the educational and the church communities. She has also served on a wide variety of local community boards, equipping her with a keen interest in and an understanding of the nonprofit mission. She has been a recipient of WSOC’s Nine Who Care award based on her leadership with the United Way’s Future Leaders youth group.
Elise is a graduate of Queens University, where she served as the university’s Registrar and has received the Alumni Service Award. She is a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church where she has held many service positions, is an Honorary Life Member of the Presbyterian Women, and served on staff as Director of Youth Ministries. Aside from her family, one of Elise’s greatest passions is participating in church mission trips, and she has led approximately 25 trips working with Mayan villages in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Encore Catering would not be what it is today without Elise’s hard work and dedication to our cause since 2001!
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, RPS Director
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 Heroy, Development Team Leader
Karen joined the School in 2010. As Development Leader, she oversees grant writing, marketing and public relations. 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.
Kelsey Holland, Social Media Administrator
Kelsey manages CCSC’s Social Media platforms and supports the Development Team with graphics and marketing materials. Prior to CCSC, she worked as a nanny for private clients, as a pre-school teacher, and as an art instructor at Wine & Design, providing workshops and classes.
Kelsey graduated from UNC Greensboro with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Communications. During college, she was active in her sorority as VP of Marketing & Development, whose charitable arm supported women and children that were victims of domestic abuse. This experience increased her awareness and sensitivity, and as an alumnus she continues in a mentorship role.
Kelsey is furthering her education, having gained certifications in Email and Content Marketing. A native of Charlotte, she enjoys painting and photography. Her favorite part of working at CCSC is interacting with students, and being part of a small-knit staff that embraces community and personal development.
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 Rick has been a board member of the Culinary School for several years.
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.