William & Mary

W&M executive chef a ‘pro’ in the kitchen

  • A real 'pro'
    A real 'pro'  Chef Denis Callinan recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America’s ProChef II Certification program.  Photo courtesy of W&M Dining Services
  • It's fiesta time
    It's fiesta time  W&M students enjoy a variety of international food options. "We like to meet with students to learn what they want to eat," says Callinan.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Boehly Cafe
    Boehly Cafe  Inspired by Callinan's childhood in New York, the Boehly Cafe in the Mason School of Business offers flatbreads, burgers and sandwiches and Grab and Go options.  Photo by Megan Shearin
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Denis Callinan, executive chef for William & Mary’s Dining Services, began working in kitchens at the unripe age of 14.

After mastering his culinary skills for more than two decades, Callinan recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) ProChef II Certification program.  He was one of only 42 chefs from higher education institutions across the nation to bare the distinguished honor for 2010.

“It was an intensive, four-day program that tested everything I’ve learned over 22 years,” said Callinan.  Each day was broken down into a specific area – from food science, baking and nutrition to a five-course Mediterranean cuisine – requiring completion of a written examination along with practical culinary skills.   The training also measured his managerial and financial acumen.

A 1995 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Callinan previously worked at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom before coming to William & Mary five years ago.  

“I enjoy the family culture at William & Mary and like that I can have a direct impact with the students and other chefs,” he said.  On any given day, Callinan feeds more than 4,000 W&M students, or serves 400 people dinner at the same time in three locations across campus. 

To say he’s a busy man is a bit of an understatement.  But for Callinan, working with students, administrators and other chefs across campus to improve the variety, taste, favor and texture of food is what fuels him.

“We serve a variety of students at William & Mary, from those who are vegetarian, and vegan, to those who are very conscious of the oils used in cooking,” he said.  “We strive to make the student experience in dining as enjoyable as possible, whether doing demonstrations or meeting with them to learn what they want to eat.”

For Callinan, one of the perks as a chef is that you never have two days alike.   “I can create a to-do list, but the list changes every minute,” he said.

Two new items on that list are the education and expansion of gluten-free food and improvement of sustainability efforts in food, water and disposable ware.  Last week, Dining Services held a forum on gluten-free food, a relevant topic that more students are talking about, said Callinan. 

W&M Dining Resident District Manager Matthew Moss says Callinan has worked extremely hard to exceed student and customer expectations at the College.

“His efforts across campus showcase the talents of the entire culinary team at William & Mary,” said Moss.  “Attaining this recognition by the CIA is a terrific feat.”

Accolades for both Callinan individually and the W&M culinary team have been awarded throughout the years.  Last year, Callinan took home the People’s Choice Award for his beef tenderloin with crab and Gruyere potato dish at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction.  As the father of premature babies, Callinan holds the event in a special place in his heart.

And, for the past two years, the W&M Catering Department has taken the Critics Choice award at the Taste of Williamsburg.

In his spare time, Callinan enjoys spending time barbequing with his family and friends.