From “Salad Girl” to “Chef”

Accolades spanning from NRV Chef of the Year to Grand Prize Winner in the Gold Division of the Culinary Competition at the ACF 2015 Culinary Conference, Chef James E. Sexton is a shining star in Blacksburg.


Masters of Science in Education, Ohio University
Bachelor of Science in Business , Saint Francis College
Associate Degree of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, Joliet Junior College


19015-NRW638Chef Sexton began his career in culinary arts when “chefs were considered domestic.” He then began his education at the turning point where those with organizational, cooking, and management skills were beginning to be considered a professional. In fact, before Chef Sexton was Chef Sexton, he started his career as the “Salad Girl” at a Holiday Inn!

Throughout his education Chef Sexton worked in several establishments and evolved a specialty in garde manger (French for Keeper of the Food). This specialty is best described in the section in the kitchen that prepares cold foods cold after collecting trimmings or cuts from other sections of the kitchen. “Think Pâté, Galantines, and Ballotines as that was mostly what I was interested in.” He competed in several ACF Competitions and holds an array of awards and medals.

While teaching at Hocking College (formerly Hocking Technical College), Sexton earned his Master’s Degree in Education. This “unwittingly on my account allowed me to teach in a university setting,” and was offered a job as the Coordinator of Special Activities for the President of University of Toledo in 1988. Shortly afterward, President McComas took the position of the President of Virginia Tech and Sexton followed, thus starting his career in Blacksburg, VA.

Sexton ran “a high-end, white tablecloth operation for the president” for 17 years. His official title was “The Coordinator of Special Activities for the Office of the President,” but he simultaneously lectured in Hospitality and Tourism Management Department.

In 2005, Chef Sexton became the sole lecturer for the Purchasing, Production, and Management class for HTM students at Virginia Tech. This class includes 5 hour labs, once a week, in which students actually prep, cook, and plate recipes under Chef Sexton’s supervision.

Sexton also holds a lecture setting explaining the importance of food safety and administers a ServSafe Manager exam to these students.

When asked what it’s like to teach college students Chef Sexton immediately replies “It’s awesome!” Although he did explain that among the hardest things about teaching college students is that they must be prepared and well-versed with a recipe before the lab.

He asks his students to read, do their homework assignments, and go over vocabulary related to the day’s recipes. Techniques are studied and implemented into recipes made in class, but if a student doesn’t know the difference between emulsified mixture or a puree a recipe could be ruined!

Fast Facts about Chef Sexton

Signature Dish
Scallops Pâté

Kitchen Tip
“Keep it clean, it’s critical!”

Best Kitchen Tool
French Knife. “That gives you an idea of how old fashioned I am.”

Best Part of Teaching
“Seeing the look on the students’ faces when they make something they never thought they’d be able to make in a million years! A lot of times when they get their menus and there’s a challenging item, they go “Oh I can’t do this.” But then they do it! Then they taste it and they think it’s the greatest thing. It changes people.”

What do you say to someone who says they’ll never try a certain food?
“If you don’t like it, you haven’t had it prepared properly.”

From the editor: Jenna Wines, Blacksburg Lodging intern, was a student in Chef Sexton’s culinary class during Summer Session, 2015.