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In Memory of a Local Chef

June 2, 2017

There are a lot of people who cook professionally in any region. Many of whom you will never see. And some are great talents.

I only met Jackie Baldwin once, but I remember it very well because her food moved me. The event was soon after I had returned from New Jersey, and it was in support of the Chefs’ Consortium at Albany Distilling Company. A lot of my old friends were there, and it was great to see them. But it was also a treat to see the Consortium expanding by bringing in new faces.

Not that Jackie was new, she had been running the kitchens of RPI for years. However, unless you were part of the network of local chefs, chef Jackie flew under the radar of Capital Region eaters. I really wanted to talk with her about

That corn crema she made for the Chefs’ Consortium event was spectacular. Almost three years after the event, I’m still thinking about it.

While Jackie may not have been well known by the public at large, she was beloved by the community of chefs that came out of SCCC. The culinary program at Schenectady County Community College has launched the careers of many local chefs, and it’s a tight bunch.

Soon, a bunch of these chefs are going to get together and host a gala to raise funds for an SCCC Scholarship fund in Jackie’s memory. The line up of chefs includes some notables who we rarely see at such events. Here’s all the information I have on the gala, which came in the form of a press release.

The full text of the release is below:

Inaugural Gala Fundraiser June 19, 2017 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

TROY, NY (5/31/17) — An inaugural gala fundraiser to establish a scholarship in memory of one of the Capital Region’s premiere woman chefs will be held this June. The evening will feature more than a dozen exceptional Capital Region chef-sponsored food stations.

On March 18, 2016, the late Jackie Baldwin died shortly after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in January. She was in her early 50s and lived in Troy, where she had worked as executive chef of RPI for 14 years prior to her promotion in 2015 to area executive chef for Sodexo, supervising food service at 32 college and university campuses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

A native-born Trojan and graduate of Troy Schools and Russell Sage College, Jackie acquired a culinary degree from Schenectady County Community College in 1983 becoming one of the few premier women chefs in the Capital District. One of the highlights of her career included hosting dinner at the James Beard Foundation in New York City in 2006 and 2007.

Friends say Baldwin dedicated her life to service, contribution, and improvement and that her open heart, kindness and boundless energy was a gift to all who knew her.

Local celebrity Chef Ric Orlando said Baldwin was “a testament to professionalism and poise.”

Inaugural Fundraiser Jun 19, 2017 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

In her memory, the Chef Jackie Baldwin Memorial Scholarship is being created at SCCC Culinary Arts Program. There will be an inaugural fundraiser for the scholarship fund this Monday, June 19 at Franklin Terrace Ballroom in Troy, N.Y. from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The evening will include more than a dozen exceptional Capital Region chef-sponsored food stations, culinary student demonstrations, Jackie’s favorite homemade pickles, cash bar, silent auction, music, memory table of Jackie’s accolades, and a place to write your favorite memories of Jackie.

Participating chefs and chef stations include:

Chef Michael Niccoli, CEA, CCA; Restaurant Navona
Chef Jamie Ortiz, Executive Chef; CEC; Mazzone Hospitality, Albany
Chef Robert Payne, CEC; Bears Steakhouse, Duanesburg
Chef David Campbell, CCC, CCE; SUNY Cobleskill
Chef Melissa Doney, CEC; Browns Brewing, Troy
ACF Capital District Central New York
Chef Chris Tanner, CEC; American Culinary Federation
Chef Larry Schepici, Jacks’ Oyster House, Albany & Chef Mark Graham, Founder of Chef Mark Graham Cuisine
Chef’s Michael Cunningham, Rachel Bozzella and Ganna Fedorova, Provence, Albany, Milano, Latham
Student Chef Table, Schenectady County Community College
Chef Darren Alvaro, RPI SODEXO
Chef Jude Jerome, UALBANY SODEXO
Chef Gillian Manna, Sage Colleges
Chef Yono Purnomo, Executive Chef; Yono’s, Albany
Chef Dale Miller, CMC, WGMC, AAC Consulting & Chef Jim Rhodes, Skidmore College
Rocco DeFazio, DeFazio’s Pizza, Troy
The Shop, Troy


Tickets to the fundraiser are $60 for an individual, $100 for a couple. Donations are also welcome.

For information, to purchase tickets or to make a donation, visit:

Or remit checks to: Chef Jackie Baldwin Memorial Scholarship, 94 Eagle Street, Troy, NY 12180

Also find information at:

There are a lot of names to get excited about on that list, including Rocco DeFazio. But I’m particularly excited about the great chefs who have left the kitchen and will be putting on their whites for this event. Specifically, Dale Miller and Jaime Ortiz. It’s an increasingly rare treat to have their food.

And I’m even more excited about the return of Chris Tanner! But that may just be me. He left his gig at SCCC years ago, and joined the corporate world. While I’ve seen him a few times when back in the area for vacation, it hasn’t been to eat his food.

Additionally, I’ve never met the chef from Bears Steakhouse. That would be a treat. Chef Melissa at Brown’s had her 15 minutes of fame on Hell’s Kitchen. Yono Purnomo and Larry Schepici are part of the Albany Culinary old guard. Mark Graham is another strong talent who has graced the region for some time. And even The Shop which is relatively newer and super hip will be represented.

My hope is that I can make this event work with my schedule. It sounds truly fantastic, and a great way to establish a legacy for chef Jackie.

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