Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 17, 2013

Chopped East Texas: Jacksonville native won’t get ‘Chopped’ from industry she loves

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — JoTe Brown, 22, plans to become a sales director in the catering industry after graduating from college in May. Which is fairly appropriate, since the world is pretty much her oyster right now.

The ambitious Brown has kept busy over the years. She is a 2009 Jacksonville High School graduate, a a former Cherokee Charmer, a former Sadler's Kitchen server and a former Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce information coordinator.

One of her more dramatic educational accomplishments was her “nick of time” graduation from Lon Morris College's former hospitality program, which went belly-up with the rest of the bankrupt institution this summer – only one graduating class after she earned that associate's degree.

Brown, who is now about to graduate from  Stephen F. Austin State University with her bachelor's degree, has made a point of preserving her relationship with her hospitality industry mentor, Breezy Lake-Wolfe. Lake-Wolfe is currently an instructor of hers at SFA.

And as a matter of fact, Lake-Wolfe created the Lon Morris hospitality program. Also in the “nick of time” spirit, Lake-Wolfe managed to successfully transfer it to SFA, before LMC went defunct.

Lake-Wolfe is a big fan of Brown's.

“JoTe (Joe-Tee) is fabulous,” she said. “She's a great young asset to Jacksonville.”

Through the efforts of die-hards such as Lake-Wolfe and Brown, the Chopped East Texas culinary event also was successfully transplanted from Jacksonville to Nacogdoches.

Brown is the current logistics director for this Second Annual Chopped East Texas, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23 at Nacogdoches' Hotel Fredonia Conven-tion Center. Her participation in this event will give her the class credit she needs to graduate from SFA in May.

The program celebrates culinary tourism and education in East Texas. It has an interesting tag line: “Four Couples … Three Rounds … Who will be the next Chopped East Texas Champions?”

In addition to the food at the this year's Chopped East Texas, there will be wine,  silent and live auctions, award-winning chefs and excellent competition. Anyone wishing to inquire can access the SFA hospitality website, www.sfasu.edu/hms.

Nathan and Lisa Jones, who won last year's competition, will present the award to this year's victors.

Nathan Jones, a 22-year veteran of Austin Bank and Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, said Lake-Wolfe has done a fantastic job of preserving and nurturing her hospitality program.

Lake-Wolfe put much of the same good energy into helping the chamber's recent “Taste of Jacksonville” event, Jones added.

“She is  talented and has a incredible work ethic,” he said. “I know she will grow this event now at the wonderful Fredonia venue into a roaring success. Breezy is the real talent. This is really about her and what she has organized.”

 Lake-Wolfe said  for her, Brown's participation in this year's event brings many things about the hospitality program full-circle.

“Education in the hospitality industry is huge in East Texas,” Lake-Wolfe explained. “The great thing about JoTe is she came on board when I launched the program at Lon Morris and then she came to Stephen F. Austin. She has been a part of everything.”

Lake-Wolfe said Brown has been an excellent steward promotion of culinary tourism and an excellent fit as one of the directors for this year's culinary event. As many as five former Lon Morris hospitality students are part of this year's event, she said.

“We have many shining stars and JoTe is definitely one of them,” Lake-Wolfe said. “She is ahead of her years. She is level-headed, mature and creative, and a really great leader.”

The growth the event has undergone this second year is unbelievable, Lake-Wolfe said. Last year's five participating students has swelled to 56. The 1,000 guests of last year has blossomed into 5,000. This year will see fundraising, country western stars appearing and more prominent sponsor presence, officials said.

Brown actually competed in last year's Chopped East Texas competition with her former Sadler's boss, local restaurateur Rob Gowin.  

She's no stranger to such events. In Novem-ber 2010, Brown partnered up with an Austin resident to cook up a 1st place win at the 1st Annual East Texas Culinary Show-Down in a head-to-head battle against two hospitality seniors from SFA.

Brown said she's ultimately looking to become a catering sales director at a large hotel or convention center.

“I'm about to find out if I got the specific job I'm looking for,” she said Tuesday.