GLENS FALLS, NY (NEWS10) — Each year, a dinner party celebrating — and raising funds for — SUNY Adirondack’s culinary program is held at the program’s newest home at 14 Hudson. This year, this dinner has also become a celebration of love between a couple brought together by the program.
“I knew I wanted to do it in school,” said Ben Pelton, who proposed to his girlfriend, Amber Rojcewicz, over dinner at Seasoned Restaurant on Saturday night. “I was just thinking about a normal, regular dinner service night. The chef being the chef, recommended Vinter’s Night, and I said yes, it’s a great idea.”
The engagement was a surprise for Rojcewicz, but a long time coming. She and Pelton met through the school’s culinary arts program, although they started there at different times. Pelton met Rojcewicz at a table where she worked for SUNY Adirondack’s then-newly revamped culinary arts program during a spicy food festival at the Glens Falls Shirt Factory in 2018. Pelton was fresh out of the U.S. Air Force , lived with his parents and looking for the next step.
After meeting at the festival, Pelton signed up for the program that fall. Although Rocjewicz was a year ahead of him, the two shared a few classes, and soon, many more. Sharing close experiences through food was a familiar experience for both.
“I’ve always loved cooking, ever since I was little,” Rojcewicz said. “My aunt played an important role in this. She always cooked with me.
After graduating, Rojcewicz started working at Craft on 9 in Glens Falls and found herself more comfortable in the front of house. She worked there until her and Pelton’s daughters were born last year, and still comes over to cover a shift or two.
Meanwhile, Pelton has just started working in the kitchen of [farmacy] restobar in downtown Glens Falls. He worked at approximately eight restaurants between before and after his Air Force service, and maintained a number of local restaurant connections. When it came time to propose, those connections were just the ticket.
“I arrived before that morning and everyone was congratulating me and hugging me. It’s a big community there,” Pelton said.
The choice of Vinter’s Night, suggested by program manager Matt Bolton, was made even more special by a guest of honour. Joseph Carr, founder of Joseph Carr Wines, led a hall of happy guests through stories of his time working in restaurants, including as a sommelier at Sagamore. One night there, Carr served a young man in a borrowed suit who nervously ordered a bottle of wine before proposing on his date. When Carr finished telling this story, Pelton got down on one knee and followed suit.
“I was quite surprised,” Rojcewicz said. “Since I had our daughter, we’ve been to a lot of fancy dinner parties in Saratoga where I was like, ‘Tonight is the night.’ I just thought we were going because back when we were students it was such a big event.
After the couple met, Pelton’s enrollment was not his first at SUNY Adirondack. He had taken just one semester of classes in 2013, before he joined the Air Force, but was put off by the number of general education classes he would have to take, when all he wanted to do was cook. When he met Rojcewicz, he learned that the new version of the program was better suited to people like him, who wanted to get straight into the business.
As they plan their wedding and the next steps in their life together, Pelton is excited to continue working at [farmacy]. Rojcewicz plans to return to the restaurant business as soon as she can, once childcare issues ease a little. The restaurant industry doesn’t leave much time for family life. Even so, the challenges ahead are ones both understand, thanks to the school program that brought them together and taught them an important lesson about what the restaurant industry is all about.
“It’s always about the next generation,” Pelton said. “It’s about seeing the people who work with you, and below you, become almost the next version of yourself. You’re trying to help people around you improve, so when you go out, you can say, “I trained this person, and now look where he is. I think that’s what (Chief Bolton) is doing too.”
This year, Vinter’s Night raised $10,500 for SUNY Adirondack’s Culinary Arts Program and its students. Pelton said Chef Bolton and the rest of the culinary family are invited to the wedding.