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.EmailButton20

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! EmailButton20

Geoff Bragg, Chef Instructor

Chef Geoff took his first restaurant job at age 15, first washing dishes, then prepping vegetables and eventually working on the line. He took classes at Johnson and Wales in Charleston, then worked at a series of restaurants, resorts and retail establishments in Charleston, Asheville and Charlotte.EmailButton20

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.

He left the pizza business for several years and worked as a cook and bartender in Myrtle Beach, then moved to Key West. For the next two years he worked as a bartender, waiter and cook at the Half Shell Raw Bar and Signorelli’s Tradewinds, (the owner Louie Signorelli is of Louie’s back yard fame). He moved back to Ohio where he worked as a sous chef at Houston Woods State Park and then as a chef/manager on Rattlesnake Island, a private resort island serving elite clientele from Cleveland.

In 1981 he returned to DiPaolo’s, where he reinvented the pizzeria turning it into an upscale restaurant. Soon, 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, George sold DiPaolo’s Restaurant, and he and his family moved to Charlotte. He worked as a manager and chef in several restaurants, including The Mayobird where in 2014 he competed on Food Court Wars hosted by Tyler Florence. He started with the Community Culinary School of Charlotte at the end of 2014 and is grateful for the opportunity to be part of Encore Catering and contribute to the School by instructing and working with students. EmailButton20

Rick Dudley, Bakery Chef

Chef Rick is a veteran of 36th Street Bakery & Catering in Linconlton. He has launched the Culinary School’s first bakery class since joining the School in 2014. EmailButton20

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.

Karen’s passion is performing. She has sung, danced and acted in local and regional projects from NC to the Northeast. Currently, she performs with singer/songwriter husband Jamie Kay throughout the Carolinas. EmailButton20

161125ORourkeBonnie O’Rourke, Comptroller

Bonnie has been CCSC’s bookkeeper since 2001. Over the years as her children grew more independent, Bonnie began spending more time at the School, and now 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.

Outside of the School, Bonnie is passionate about helping animals live better lives. She currently volunteers with the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, which builds free fences for dogs living outside on chains, and a spay/neuter program. EmailButton20

Victor Ward, RPS Director

Victor joined CCSC in 2015 to operate the Relapse Prevention Service. Victor  facilitates weekly group meetings and confidential individual sessions, offering students the chance to explore their specific barriers and create action plans . EmailButton20





Visiting Faculty

Geoffrey Blount, CEPC, CC

Chef Blount is a 1995 graduate of CPCC’s Culinary Arts program and now heads the baking and pastry arts program on the Harris Campus of CPCC. Chef Blount also trained at the French Pastry School in Chicago, and was named 2011 Pastry Chef of the Year for the Charlotte Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.


Rick Lekowski

Chef Rick has been a board member of the Culinary School  for several years.

Peter Reinhart

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.