Stillwater News Press

February 19, 2013

Distinguished Chef Series benefits scholarships at Oklahoma State University

Students gain experience with the top talents in the field

By Elizabeth Keys
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — When Laura Aufleger lived in Dallas, one of her favorite restaurants was Nick Badovinus’ cutting-edge Neighborhood Services. Back in Stillwater now with her young family, she cajoled her mother, Susan Griffith, to including her in the Distinguished Chef Scholarship Benefit Series where Badovinus whisked his magic in teaching demonstrations for students and sponsors. Aufleger’s grandparents, Janet and the late Jack Griffith, were long-time supporters of the program with her parents one of the sponsors of the event now which is entering the third decade of providing scholarships to hotel and restaurant administration students.

OSU student Caleb Hunt is appreciative of all the event sponsors.

“We get hands-on experience with the top talent in the field and learn how to cope with a full capacity dining room — and the proceeds benefit scholarships for us,” Hunt said. “Students take on all roles from planning to preparation to serving the day of the event.”

As a wine manager, he has learned to pick out and order beverages to match the meals served. His time with Badovinus has inspired him to dream big and open a place of his own one day. Interaction with a successful restaurant owner helped the students think about traditional foods which can be served in a different way.

And that is what Badovinus does best.

Arriving in Dallas in 1996 with all his possessions in the back of his pickup, he has worked with some of the best chefs and creative restaurateurs in Dallas, including Dean Fearing at The Mansion at Turtle Creek, Phil Romano of Romano Concepts and Consilient Restaurants.

In late 2008, Badovinus’ restaurant development company, FlavorHook, opened Neighborhood Services in the Park Cities section of Dallas. It was an immediate hit with customers from all over the city. The success of the original led to Neighborhood Services Tavern and Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill, and now Off Site Kitchen. He was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s 2012 Restaurateur of the Year Award.

“All four joints cover a very broad spectrum,” he said.

Badovinus shared tips with the students about “cooking for money.”  He said the first night he opened his restaurant T. Boone Pickens showed up and it has been a harbinger of good things emphasizing that “profit fuels art and at the end of the day a restaurant has to be sustainable.”

“Eventually the milk man comes to collect,” Badovinus reminded students that even with the best ingredients and finest service, you won’t stay in business long if you can’t turn a profit.

“Chef Nick energized the curriculum for our students,” said clinical professor Steven M. Ruby.

Professor Heidi Hoart and students will discuss the chef series at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Town Hall from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Stillwater Public Library. Call 1-800-765-8933 or visit to register.

Students will also participate in the 2013 Wine Forum of Oklahoma — Of Wine, Women and the West April 12 and 13. The event features the Pioneer Woman, Chef Ree Drummond, with two days of educational wine seminars, wine tasting, and food and wine pairings.

The next guest in the chef series is Craig Cyr, executive chef of The Wine Cellar and Bistro in Columbia, Mo.  A reception and dinner is scheduled 6 p.m. April 18.

For more information on attending the chef series or wine forum, call 405-744-6713.