Q & A: Meet Niko, the new Culinary Arts Chef


Plum and his wife are huge fans of the Pittsburg Steelers and love attending games.

Q: How long have you been working in this field and why did you choose this profession?
A: I have been in the hospitality industry as long as I can remember. My parents owned a restaurant when I was growing up, which meant when I was tall enough to reach the counter I was helping in the restaurant. I chose this profession because being a marine biologist was too hard. But in all seriousness, I love food.

Q: Where did you work before AHS?
A: I have done a number of different restaurant jobs before becoming a teacher. Some highlights would be Executive Chef at an Asian American Fusion restaurant, Executive Chef of a seafood restaurant, and a private chef for professional athletes.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: The best part of being a culinary teacher is being able to teach students skills that they will use for the rest of their life. Some students are also better with hands-on learning.

Q: What has your career path looked like and how did you end up at AHS?
A: My career path was not typical. I started out going to college for finance and marketing but I was very bored and did not want to sit behind a desk all day, so I left school and went to culinary school. I got my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Norfolk State University and then went on to get my Masters of Hospitality from Virginia Tech. The entire time through college I was working in restaurants. A position opened up at South Lakes for a part time culinary teacher which I got. I was asked to come help out in the culinary department at AHS for a while and will see where the future takes me.

Q: What does a typical day in your class look like?
A: On a regular day, the students come in, get dressed and go into the kitchen. Once in the kitchen there are two ways it goes: either I demonstrate a new technique and they duplicate it or they are broken into groups and each group works on a different recipe for the staff.

Q: What are you most looking forward to experiencing here?
A: I am most looking forward to experiencing things back to “normal” and being able to host sit down luncheons for staff in the bistro. I cannot wait to host after school catering events for my students to experience what a catering event is all about.

Q: What is your proudest moment as an educator?
A: Proudest moment as an educator is having one of my students reach out to me for advice about their future. Having the opportunity to build relationships with students and them trusting me enough to help them through decisions on their future is huge.

Q: What lasting impacts do you want to leave on the school?
A: I want my students to end up loving to cook. I don’t want culinary to be something to fill a schedule but rather a lifelong lesson that can be taken into the rest of their lives. I am also hoping to inspire at least a handful of students to go into the restaurant business and/or become a chef.

Q: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
A: One thing that most people do not know about me is that I am a Monopoly collector and have over 200 different versions of Monopoly.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like the Annandale community to know?
A: Annandale is a great school and I would like to be here for a very long time. Every student should take a culinary course at some point to not only have a possible career but also be able to cook for themselves at home and into the future.