TAMPA – At Corbett Prep, there is no bigger man on campus than Garrett Jagdmann.
He’s the head of catering at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS, 12015 Orange Grove Drive, but that’s just a title. Really, to teachers and students alike, he’s the master chef, the guy who walks around campus during the day pushing his cart while both students and teachers wonder what’s inside.
Jagdmann entered the Top Chef competition to benefit the Champions for Children cause, a nonprofit organization that works throughout the Tampa Bay region to help families with child abuse prevention as well as to educate families.
Top Chef of the Year Tampa Bay encourages chefs to channel their inner creativity to design everything from menu to décor. Each chef prepares – tableside – a five-course meal with accompanying wines for a table of 12 to 15 people. Chefs also provide their own linens, china, centerpieces and more to create a world within the venue specific to each chef’s unique vision.
That’s quite a thrill for the students and teachers at Corbett, who get to enjoy Jagdmann’s meals every day.
“Everything I make is fresh and they get fresh fruits and fresh vegetables every day,” Jagdmann said. “We let them have things like chicken tenders once in awhile, but we try to keep it healthy. If they like the taste of it then they don’t mind. We emphasize salads and healthy foods, but we also know what they like.”
Jagdmann was briefly at quarterback at the University of South Florida when the program was nothing more than a few scrimmages at the soccer stadium. He left USF and had no idea what he wanted to do and being a master chef wasn’t even on the radar.
“I thought about what I might want to do and said that I realized I liked to cook,” Jagdmann said. “I checked out the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and got started. I was a 6-foot-3 guy in a room that was 6-2. It all grew from there.”
Jagdmann said he never even knew how to cook until he got to college but, for whatever reason, he learned that he had a knack for it. He started to mix ingredients without looking at cookbooks, just doing everything out of his own imagination.
He ended up as the cook, although he’s really a chef, at Corbett Prep and he made friends fast. The teachers at Corbett are big fans of Jagdmann who makes special treats for them. His pizzas are prized around the campus and he loves to use the teachers as guinea pigs to check out his latest ideas.
Jagdmann is used to catering meals for more than 450 people, but he says he gets a big kick out of simply serving the Corbett staff and students. Fajita Day is a big favorite at the school and Surf and Turf Day is wildly popular.
With the students, he tries to emphasize vegetables, but he’s also realistic.
“The kids are going to eat the pleasure foods so I don’t force it on them,” he said. “I think they are happy.”
So are the people who enjoyed his entry at the Top Chef dinner. He served five courses: Salmon tartare, Quinoa porridge with currants and wild boar smoked sausage, goat cheese with pears and walnuts, seared venison loin with blackberry peppercorn, and syllabub with fresh mixed berries.