Nancy Aala

Nancy Aala

Director of Compliance at PG Wood Floors

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Catering Director  - Olympic College

Director of Catering  - Olympic College

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BREMERTON - Olympic College's new catering director might have once rubbed elbows with cooking legends Bobby Flay and Julia Child, but chef Nancy Aala hopes her current job will get her a little closer to culinary newbies.

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The new catering director, Nancy Aala, sets a table in the Fireside Bistro Wednesday.
Nancy Aala, 43, started work at OC in early March, after decades of casual powwows with celebrity chefs around the U.S. Aala started modestly as a liberal arts/humanities major at Western Washington University and worked at a tea and coffee shop in Seattle before realizing her degree was useless to her. One day, Aala pulled out the Zagat restaurant guide and circled the top three restaurants in the state. She was soon the "low man on the totem pole" at the Hunt Club in the Sorrento Hotel in downtown Seattle. "I didn't even have the right to be there as far as I'm concerned," said Aala. "It was a whole different ball game. It's like my life just opened up." She worked at the Hunt Club for a year before embarking to culinary school. She started at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York City, what she called one of the best experiences of her life. "I show up and it's Julia Child, Bobby Flay, Stephan Pyles ... all these major chefs," said Aala. Among her myriad stories, Aala recalled a time when Keff said they were hosting an after-hours dinner, and anyone who wanted to stay could. At 11 p.m. Keff locked the door and Aala was one of the few workers left. "In walks Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, the guys from R.E.M. and the guys from Pearl Jam," said Aala. The chefs catered for the dozen of them and Aala said she remembered talking with Ono about what was in a dish she made. "There were a lot of mind-blowing moments like that where you just wonder 'what am I doing here?'" said Aala. "It was a very fun way to spend my 20s, let's put it like that." Soon, Aala was catering small parties and once her name had some weight behind it, she started Perfected Preparations, which she ran for six years. She did private domestic cheffing for four or five clients in what she called a very familial-like setting. "It was a nice time of life," said Aala. "I learned so much from these people too, just a lot of life lessons." After the workload got to be too much, and to care for her ailing mother, she crossed the Sound to a place she said she hardly knew existed and started work at a bistro in Port Ludlow as a temporary consultant. Aala and her husband-at-the-time then decided to buy a house. "Next thing I know I'm having kids and one things leads to another," said Aala. "And now I don't think I'm going back. It's been 12 years and I love the peninsula." She took a break from work to focus on her mother, four children and longtime passion of writing. After a decade Aala decided to get back into the field. Aala said she eyed the job at OC for a year before applying. Her job as caterer for private clients is to create a vision of the event and to design a menu that fits in with the style the client is going for. Besides that, she runs the front of the house. "OC has a great culinary program, and you don't find that everywhere and you don't see that everyday," said Aala. "This is really a great opportunity to get knee-deep in the culinary program." Aala said that after such a long absence, it was nice to be back in the field. "It's the place that feels like home," said Aala. "I could get a job somewhere else but in a restaurant is where I feel like I belong. Still, Aala doesn't see her passion in writing fading anytime soon. Among topics she wants to write about are what we feed children and the elderly and the integration of more healthcare-funded nutritionists in our culture. After more than two decades surrounded by all things food-related Aala said she still hasn't tired of it. "It actually energizes me," said Aala.

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Nancy Aala
Olympic College has hired chef Nancy Aala as the new catering director. A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, N.Y., she she brings knowledge and culinary experience from her work with world-class celebrity chefs such as Julia Child and Stephan Pyles. As OC's catering director, Aala will lead students from the college's Culinary Institute to cater events of all sizes, from small parties to large banquets, receptions and weddings. read more >

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