Tom Parfitt’s first look at the culinary arts was behind a sink, washing dishes.

“I spent most of my time watching the chefs cook on the line, trying to learn what I could, making my shift meals, and emulating what they did,” he says.

As Parfitt moved up through the ranks, he fell in love with the fast-paced life of a restaurant kitchen. His work ranged from sous chef at Zeus Gallery Café in Richmond, and a pastry cook at the world-class City Zen restaurant in Washington, D.C., to working for a chocolatier in Alexandria, Va., and even a little taste of vegetarian as a chef with Ipanema in Richmond’s Fan District.

Eventually, Parfitt enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md., where he honed his pastry skills—a more marketable skill set in the culinary world. He ultimately returned to Richmond and started a line of chocolates at his own Seven Hills Market, while also offering culinary consulting and menu planning for local restaurants.

After a chance meeting with Cary Jamieson, program specialist with the School of Professional and Continuing Studies’ Landscape Design Program, Parfitt was introduced to the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Program, and his career took yet another direction.

Now a full-time instructor at the Culinary Arts Center, Parfitt was instrumental in developing the new Baking and Pastry Arts certificate, which he says, “walks the line of being good for the hobby cook and prepping someone going into the business.”

Moving from the back-room kitchen to front and center as the instructor has been rewarding, Parfitt says. “I love students learning things and sending me pictures of what they’re making. One of my favorite things is to … go to the farmer’s market and see someone selling something that I know that they picked up from a class, and seeing Richmond becoming a little bit more of a pastry-centric town.”

In the video below, Parfitt talks about his vision for the Baking and Pastry Arts program. Then, watch the slideshow for a demonstration on the art of chocolate.

Tom Parfitt videochocolate making slideshow