published Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Chattanooga chef in D.C. to assist with inauguration festivities

Lee Festival Choir at inauguration

The Lee University Festival Choir will perform Monday at the U.S. Capitol as part of the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

The event starts at 11:30 a.m. with a performance by the U.S. Marine Band, then the PS 22 fifth-grade chorus from Staten Island, N.Y., then the Lee choir.

The choir's concert will include songs with patriotic, spiritual and regional flavors.

Chattanooga's Andrea Cagle is ready to slice and dice for President Barack Obama.

A chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia College School of Business and Health in Chattanooga, she has been in Washington, D.C. for almost a week to assist with festivities surrounding the second inauguration of the 44th president.

"It's a little unpredictable," Cagle says of the schedule. "They said it could be 12-hour days, to wear comfortable shoes and don't bring anything extra. They give you very little information for security reasons."

Before she left, she knew she would be involved in three events, at least one on Inauguration Day and all at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Cagle, 43, says she is one of 20 to 30 supervising food and beverage managers among some 2,000 chefs, waiters and servers hired for the festivities.

In serving Obama, she is following the footsteps of fellow Chattanoogan Phillipe Gehin, who is program director for the local Virginia College Culinary Institute and who prepared a private lunch for the president-elect and his party in Alabama in 2008.

"When I was looking to launch the program last quarter [of 2012]," he says, "[Cagle] was one of the first applicants. I was amazed by her approachability. She was very nice, a very genuine person."

Gehin says Cagle is an excellent teacher but brooks no foolishness.

"There is an art in what she does," he says. "She is firm, a tough chef. She tells you what to do, and you should do it."

The swirl of people at the Washington balls, parties and galas may not afford Cagle the same opportunity, but Gehin says he was lucky enough to engage Obama in a 15-minute private conversation -- Secret Service members aside -- at the 2008 lunch he prepared.

"We talked about anything but politics -- food, sports, movies and such," he says. "I don't do politics. He was an exquisite man."

Cagle was recommended for the Inauguration week festivities by a friend from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta. She was first contacted about the possibility around two months ago and had to submit information for a security clearance. Once cleared, she was offered the opportunity about a month ago.

Cagle, a native of Huntsville, Ala., has lived in Chattanooga about 25 years. She grew up in the food business, learning at the feet of her father, who operated Joe's Barbecue.

Cagle has now spent 18 years in the field, having been executive chef and owner of Kozy Cooking Catering in Chattanooga.

She also helped open Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant, where she served as dinner manager, and worked with Daniel Lindley, executive chef and owner of St. Johns Restaurant and a three-time James Beard Foundation nominee.

She also trained with Holly Chute, executive chef for the governor of Georgia.

Even when Cagle was in the medical field some years ago, she says, "people always asked me to cook. I loved it."

Eventually, she attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu.

While she says she enjoys teaching, she continues catering on the side and enjoys cooking for her husband. At home, she likes to prepare or stir-fry Asian-inspired foods such as kimchi with noodles or rice.

"I cook all the time," she says. "It's always something new, something different. I like to share new things with other people. Most chefs love to cook for every people [and] see their reaction."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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