Student transforms from diesel mechanic to culinary instructor

Photo by Sara Holmes / THE FLARE.
David Belanger, first-year KC culinary instructor, has been preparing food since the age of 6.

He could cook it, kill it and skin it by the age of 6.

That is what David Belanger, first-year KC culinary instructor, says about his childhood.

“I was a self-sufficient kid,” Belanger said. Being raised by his single mom, aunt and grandmother, it instilled in him a way of life and a passion: cooking.

Belanger has a story though, that most culinary chefs do not.

Growing up on a Michigan farm, he didn’t finish high school. He was going to a college in Michigan until the administration found out he didn’t have a high school diploma.

Belanger got his GED soon after and wanted to become a teacher. He quickly got out of that though, when, in his words, the big pink slipping started.

“Teachers in ’78 were given pink slips where they no longer had jobs,” Belanger said. Belanger wanted a stable job and knew that teaching was not it.

Belanger had many jobs before becoming a chef. He was in construction, worked on oil rigs, was a repo man, locksmith and a diesel mechanic most recently before becoming a chief.

“In 2009 I was laid off and forced to draw unemployment,” Belanger said.

After watching cooking channels all day and having support from his wife, he decided cooking had always been his passion and that he was going to attend the Art Institute in Dallas to get his degree.

Belanger got loans that he didn’t have to make the payments on until two years after school. He said he knew attending culinary school is what was supposed to happen.

Belanger said it wasn’t all easy either once he got there.

“There were times I felt discouraged, especially with the core classes,” Belanger said.

He had not taken math in years and that was really tough for him. He did not know how to type either, since that was not required the last time he went to school. He said that his instructors really helped him, and he loved what he was doing.

After finishing his degree, Belanger worked for a catering company out of Longview.

With Belanger being strong in his faith, he believes being the culinary chef at KC was meant for him.

“My friend from church called me and told me that they were looking for a culinary instructor,” Belanger said.

He called, got an interview, was hired and said he has loved every minute of it since.

From being a man of odd jobs, to being an instructor and teaching others how to cook, Belanger said he hopes to be an example to others.

“You are never too old to learn something new,” Belanger said. “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Belanger says he loves teaching his students more than just cooking, though. He likes teaching them lessons.

“I feel I make a difference,” Belanger said. “Cooking right and eating right will allow you to be healthier and live longer.”

Another goal Belanger wants to instill in his students is to try everything. You might find something you really like and you might not, but at least you are trying new things, which will lead to trying other new things.

Belanger is not stopping with this dream though.

“I have a desire to have food trucks,” Belanger said. The city of Longview will not allow them right now, but Belanger is not giving up.

Belanger also said he would like to travel around Europe and cook in different countries and learn the root of recipes.

Belanger is a prime example that you can do anything your heart desires. With dedication and faith it will be accomplished.

Belanger ends with saying, “God Bless, Eat Well and Bon Appétit.”