by Peter Jaker–Managing Editor
The News Journal of Florence, South Carolina called her the “Queen of cuisine,” Aug. 28. In the publication Southern Cousine,” the headline read, “Passion for cooking.”
Kelly Vogelheim has received plenty of accolades and splashy, full-page feature articles since taking over as executive chef of Town Hall, “a farm-driven, Southern-inspired restaurant in Florence, South Carolina,” the web site states.
The greatest achievement in her young career was being among five chefs from across the state to be named a 2019 South Carolina Chef Ambassador.
“Being named chef ambassador has been incredibly humbling,” said Kelly, the daughter of Rob and Chrissy Vogelheim. “Truly an honor.”
As a chef ambassador, she has been traveling nationwide to promote South Carolina’s culinary heritage and local food culture. The honor landed her a color photo in Rachael Ray Every Day’s second annual women in food issue.
The 2010 Rogers City High School graduate started cooking with her grandmother, Linda Hall, and her mother.
“They taught me some of the most important basics to getting started in the kitchen,” said Kelly. “Canning and preserving, making fresh jams and salsas.”
She learned to make hearty stews in the fall and winter, and preparing fresh fish in the summer.
“They made everything from scratch and often used fresh ingredients from the garden. You could definitely taste the love in every dish,” she said.
Her first job in the food and beverage industry was at a local coffee shop where she was a barista at 14. When she was old enough to drive, there was a job waiting at the Portage Restaurant at Presque Isle State Harbor. It’s where Kelly decided to make a career in the culinary field.
From Alpena Community College she transferred to Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwest Michigan College in Traverse City and graduated in 2014.
Her next move was so typical of a kid from Rogers City. She went to work on the boats. However, this was very different.
“A friend of mine had worked on the boats and suggested it to me as a good way to get my career started when I graduated college,” said Kelly. “It was a lengthy application process, but I ended up landing the position with the title of chief steward, managing all functions of the galley.
Kelly worked for the Interlake Steamship Company just shy of three years.
“It was a very interesting experience, especially being in such a male dominated work environment,” she said. “It taught me to have thick skin, that’s for sure! Being in a moving kitchen gave me the experience to be able to adapt to difficult situations, improvise when things don’t always go as planned, and stay organized. The ships had scheduled deliveries, but they could change at any time due to weather.”
When it was time to find a job back on land, it took her to Charleston, South Carolina at the Low Country Bistro for 1 ½ years before applying for the opening at Town Hall in 2018.
“I love working at Town Hall. This restaurant has given me the opportunity to showcase my own style of food and creativity, changing the menu with the seasons,” said Kelly. “I lead a strong and passionate kitchen staff, that help maintain the quality of the food we prepare, and provide our guests with an elevated dining experience.”
To say Kelly’s entire family is proud of her accomplishments, and they include siblings Heather Ryan and Tommy Vogelheim, would be a grand understatement.
“Having Kelly so far from home and only seeing her a couple times a year if we’re lucky is hard but knowing she is doing so well for herself and that she is receiving so much recognition and so many accolades helps,” said Chrissy.
“We are beyond proud and happy for all she has accomplished so far in her career. We always look forward to her creating a fabulous meal for us!”
Kelly is not so sure what the future will hold, but for now she will continue to serve in her current position. “Create, adapt, and grow until I figure out what’s next,” she added.
Character traits that have served Kelly extremely well.