Pipia Orenduff has always had a passion for cooking. At 50 years old, she walked through the doors of West Kentucky Community and Technical College and began fulfilling her life-long dream to be a chef and opening a restaurant with her best friend. She will graduate with her Associate in Science degree in culinary arts in December 2013. But Pipia has traveled a long road to begin her dream career.
In her early years, Pipia worked with her dad around their Mississippi farm and took classes at a local junior college. But then her life changed when she decided to join the military in 1981, a decision that began shaping her into the woman she is today.
After the eight-week intensive boot camp in at Ft. Dix in New Jersey in 1981. Pipia was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where received on-the-job training as a laboratory technician. She was then transferred to Heidelburg, Germany, where she was responsible for lab procedures such as blood typing, chemistry and cholesterol screenings and urinalysis testing for more than 8,000 troops and their families.
“My time in the military prepared me for my future. I learned structure, discipline, courage, determination, and most of all, to do your best at all times. It was a very rewarding time in my life that I wouldn’t change for the world.”
Upon leaving the military, Pipia has the skills to continue working as a lab technician but didn’t have the degree she needed to get a job. She earned her Associate in Applied Science degree in lab technology from Henderson Community and Technical College and for the past 20 years, Pipia worked at hospitals and doctor’s offices; raised her daughter, Aryelle (who is studying mathematical engineering at the University of Wyoming); and kept her culinary dream on the back burner.
But that all changed in January 2012 when Pipia and her best friend, Lori Clarke, started reminiscing about the past and decided it was time to rekindle their plan to open a business together. “Lori said, ‘why don’t you just go to the college (WKCTC) and see where the closest culinary school is’ and that’s exactly what I did. I was estatic when the lady at the front desk said, ‘you’re in the right place, we have an excellent culinary program right here.’”
Pipia then saw the sign to the veteran services office and stepped inside. Kristen Amaya was on hand to help her sign up for veteran educational benefits and made sure she was ready to start classes.
“I knew this was God’s way of telling me I was moving in the right direction. I admit I was scared to make such a drastic change because I wasn’t sure I could handle going back to college after such a long time. But with my faith in God and my military background which taught me to be self-confident and self-reliant, I wasn’t going to let fear stop me. I was enrolled in the culinary program just one week later, quit my job, and began moving forward with my new career plans.”
Pipia said the WKCTC culinary program is top-notch and fits perfectly into her life with a professional atmosphere that has the same structure she’d come to expect and love from her time in the Army. “This program has taught me everything I need to know to be successful as a chef. It hasn’t always been easy, but Chef Patrick and Chef Koehler have always encouraged me and pushed me to be the best; and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like the program, they are top-notch. I am so excited about the future.”