GLADE SPRING, Va. — For a local culinary student, dreams do come true, even when a pandemic gets in the way.
Twenty-year-old Katelyn Blevins was on her way to an internship assignment at the Disney College Program when the Florida resort closed in March due to rising cases of COVID-19. The Disney College Program is a national internship program operated by the Disney Internships & Programs division of The Walt Disney Co.
“It was a huge disappointment,” said Blevins, who was among only a few in her culinary arts class at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, North Carolina, chosen for the honor.
In the meantime, the student returned to her Saltville home to continue online coursework and to weigh her options for locating another intern site.
After working for Gypsy Coffee Co., a traveling coffee shop in Marion, Blevins went to work at Sarah Jean’s Eatery in downtown Glade Spring, where she is head line cook and resident dessert maker.
And she’s making quite a sweet impression with her homemade, Appalachian-inspired culinary creations.
“Making food for people is one of the best ways to show your love and appreciation,” Blevins said. “My brain absolutely loves food,” she said with laughter. “I’m constantly thinking about it. It’s like a big catalog of food and desserts.”
The student has wanted to be a chef since she was a little girl experimenting in the kitchen with her family.
As a teen, she often spread the joy of cooking by bringing her friends at Northwood High School samples of new recipes.
Blevins said her work at the Glade Spring restaurant will help her earn money to continue her culinary arts education.
“And it’s a good way to sharpen my dessert-making skills, and eventually I want to open my own restaurant.”
One of her regular customers at the restaurant cannot tolerate gluten products, preventing her from ordering some of the desserts on the menu. Blevins recently surprised the customer with a gluten-free dessert made just for her. The dessert consisted of citrus panna cotta with raspberry coulis, acorn flour and a sorghum cookie.
“It’s light, creamy, tangy and sweet, along with being completely gluten-free,” said Blevins. “I love to challenge myself to make fun and interesting desserts each week, and this one was a classy favorite of mine.”
Another customer favorite at the restaurant is her creme brulee tart with a cacao nib crust, vanilla custard, a crunchy, torched sugar top and homemade salted caramel sauce.
“It’s absolutely divine,” she said.
Last but not least is her honey cornbread cake made with roasted honey peach and rosemary jam, meringue, brulee peach and a honey curry sauce made with a curry blend.
“It’s not too sweet — the roasted peach jam gives it a beautiful sweet and tangy note.”
Many of her dessert recipes — ones she has created on her own or remembered from baking with her grandmother — are shared on her website at http://chefkatelynsculinarycreations.squarespace.com. She shares recipes for everything from “Buttery Drop Biscuits” to “Chef Katelyn’s Pork BBQ.”
“Another passion of mine is sharing my love for cooking by teaching people how to cook. A lot of people rely on fast food or frozen meals. I want to teach people how easy it is to learn,” Blevins said.
The young chef is starting a YouTube channel at “CK’s Cooking Creations” with tutorials on the basics of cooking. She can also be found at “Chef Katelyn Creations” on Facebook.
“Food brings us together. No matter what race, religion or background, we all share in the joys that the very essence of life brings us. Through my art, I want to create a world of smiles, a world where we can all share in all the wonderful things that the art of culinary has to offer,” she said.
The pandemic may have changed her plans, but it did not change her vision for what is important in life. Coming home earlier than expected, Blevins was able to spend valuable time with her family and her beloved grandmother who taught her so much.
“Although I may have lost great opportunities this year, I have gained many that I never could have had if things worked out the way I thought they would.”
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.