Surprise reception

HGTC Chef and teacher Kathleen Hassett and her new husband Charlie Steele were surprised by the students.

For Horry-Georgetown Technical College Chef Kathleen Hassett, Tuesday’s lunch service was supposed to be just another day.

“It was just supposed to be the regular day we offer a buffet service,” she said with a smile. “I didn’t know this was going to be about us.”

But it was.

The students in the culinary arts program at HGTC worked hard to surprise Hassett and her new husband Charlie Steele with a wedding reception.

“It was really cool to plan this week’s buffet as their wedding reception,” said HGTC student Chase Hinson. “We have never done a wedding buffet before and it was nice that our first one was for them.”

Hassett and Steele were married on the beach at Huntington State Park in June, but didn’t plan to celebrate their wedding during a lunch service at HGTC.

“We were very surprised,” Hassett said.

The meal included an international fruit display with a pumpkin carved to show the couple’s initials, bacon-wrapped shrimp, warmed spinach artichoke dip, a caprese salad, Chicken Hassett with artichokes and lemon caper butter, tenderloin of steele with a shitake mushroom demi-glaze, Atlantic salmon, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and grilled vegetables.

The students even baked and decorated a wedding cake for the couple.

“It was just really nice to be able to make all this stuff for Ms. Hassett and her husband and to surprise them,” said HGTC student Vicka Kearney. “It was also fun to learn how to do a wedding buffet.”

Always in teaching mode, Hassett said this was a great opportunity for her students to learn.

“Even though this is a surprise for us, I am excited that the students were able to learn how to do this,” she said. “Tons of people get married every year and they need to know how to handle a wedding buffet.”

Steele said he was shocked when he learned the entire meal was a surprise for them.

“I was just told to be here for lunch. I have never eaten here before and didn’t know it was for us,” he said. “I was very surprised.”

The couple met in February 2009 on the dating website match.com.

Steele said he saw Hassett’s profile and knew she was out of his league.

Hassett made contact with Steele first and after emailing back and forth for a few weeks, the couple set up a first meeting at the Market Common.

“We talked for about two hours and then I asked her on a date,” he said. “After that, it was all over. I knew I had to be with her.”

Steele works with Frontier Communications in Myrtle Beach.

The HGTC dining room was packed with lunch regulars ready to celebrate the new couple.

Hassett said there almost wasn’t room for everyone.

To make sure there is room for all the surprise celebrations and regular lunches, HGTC is working to raise money for a state-of-the-art culinary arts building on the Myrtle Beach campus where the Myrtle Beach and Conway campus culinary arts programs will be combined.

The Conway campus will still be used for banquets and special events, but all students will be taught at the Myrtle Beach campus.

School officials say the combined program will offer much more to students.

“If we have one location, we can really delve into what it is like to work or own a restaurant from cooking for a mass of people to the cost of food and how it impacts the kitchen and the restaurant’s bottom line,” Hassett said. “It will really help students understand this industry and all that goes into it.”

The new $12 million, 38,000-square-foot building will be located at the corner of Pampas Drive and Crabtree Lane on the HGTC Grand Strand campus. New amenities will include a teaching kitchen, a bakery, dining area, multipurpose areas and classroom space for students.

HGTC Pres. Neyle Wilson said the new building will be a major upgrade to the program.

“We have been thinking about this for a long time,” he said. “Right now, we have two facilities, both of which are outdated and we don’t want our program split in half. We need to consolidate it into one modernized facility so we can grow the program.”

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