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    Chef Derek Spendlove, of our very own Sullivan University, has recently won the Worldchefs Certified Master Pastry Chef Title, the highest pastry certification. More excitingly, he is the first American to earn the honor, and he happens to work, live, breathe and play in our beautiful city of Louisville. I spoke with him via a phone call last wee, and he was a pleasure to converse with. He is a knowledgeable, well-rounded, insightful person; I was honored to talk to him and learn something about myself as I did.

    Chef Spendlove wanted to go forward to the next level of certification in the pastry chef world two years ago. The award and honor he won is given by the World Association of Chefs' Societies (WACS), based in Paris, France. He said when he received the phone call that he had won, all he could usher was "Wow! When I first applied for the certification two years ago, I had no idea I would be the first American to accept the award,” said chef Spendlove. “I am honored to be acknowledged for my passion and dedication to the culinary industry by my peers and chefs from around the world.” When he discovered he was the first (and only thus far) American to win, he was rendered speechless. These three words resonated throughout our conversation as he told me about the title, his background, and his current career at Sullivan: humbled, delighted, and surprised. Chef Spendlove told me stories about his students, his work, his teaching career, and so on. Earning this master pastry chef title was ultimately what he considers for all chefs in his world, the pinnacle of their career.

    "I want my earning of this title to be an example to my students," Spendlove said. "To be an example that if you devote your time and energy into something, it can bring you higher than you ever dreamed. This achievement is attainable, it is reachable for any of you (his students). You can achieve that." He hopes that this message will inspire his students and be a motivational tool as he continues to teach and mold them in their careers in the baking and pastry world.

    Spendlove said that he is absolutely thrilled, and finds this title, his achievement, and the task before him very important. He feels that this title will require him to humbly set forth a new objective to lead toward others in the world of pastry. Of his relationship with Sullivan University, and his family at Sullivan, he gave them all the credit. "I received tremendous support and encouragement from Sullivan. I was 100% backed by them, and I owe this honor 100% to them." Chef Spendlove has been on staff at Sullivan for 26 years as a pastry chef in the program of the Baking and Pastry Arts Department. He feels this title brings him more responsibility to the food and culinary arts community; he is already involved internationally and in the United States as a judge for the commission of pastry competitions and certifications around the country and the world.

    Chef Spendlove is originally from Dublin, Ireland. He came here to America thirty years ago and began his career at Baltimore International College, where he met his wife and they actually returned to Ireland to open a school there. Sullivan University approached him shortly thereafter, and he has been here ever since. He gives credit to his family as well for all of his success in life. He said the number one reason he remains at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky (when he could go anywhere, be anyone in the pastry chef world) is "educating the young people at Sullivan. I love the individual care and the educational arena that exists at Sullivan. It is all about the students, and that is my underlying love." He manages pastry chef teams, and is the Director of the Baking and Pastry Arts Program, where there are 800 students in the culinary arts field. Of his students, he told me a short story of receiving calls from former students and that "the #1 thrill is when two or three years later, after a student has graduated, and they call me and say, "Chef! You'll never guess where I'm working now?!" "That is the best gift, the most rewarding thing to receive and know you have made a difference."

    Chef Spendlove says of his craft and his work, "Give 110%, put your heart and soul into it. It's not a job, I (we) are changing somebody's life. Show them your skill, in the food world no two days are alike, and I love that. It's a great career in the hospitality world; I started at age 14 and have never looked back. I learn from my students; they teach me and share knowledge every single day, and I turn never stop learning as well."

    My favorite part of our conversation came at the end, when he said to me (paraphrased): "Love your craft, devote your time to it. Don't look for the rewards, they will follow." Chef Spendlove ended by saying, "At the end of the day, Thank You to Sullivan University." As you can see, this man took the spotlight off of himself, shone it onto his employer and lifelong program that has given him all the opportunities he could ever want, as well as lit up his students and what they have taught him.

    Humility describes him the best. The honor of winning and earning this title: Worldchefs Certified Master Pastry Chef is a big thing for him, and for our city. Being the first American to do so and living right here in Louisville is indescribable! I personally can't wait to meet this man in person, and I am sure I will learn a thing or two from him. I'd love to try one of his pastries.

    Photos courtesy of Estes Public Relations and

    Erin Nevitt's picture

    About Erin Nevitt

    Longtime Louisvillian, I am a children's librarian at heart and have a passion for children's lit. I am most recently a stay-at-home mom who is always on the move, searching for family fun in Louisville. If it's free, it's preferable!

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