Bryan Denham

Bryan Denham, a 2006 graduate of ACC’s Culinary Technology program, probably never imagined when he began that curriculum two years earlier that he would be making his living as a cook on the earth’s most remote continent where six below zero is considered a warm day. But that’s exactly what he has been doing for the past two years. Denham told about his fascinating experiences as the first speaker in the College’s 50th Anniversary Great Speaker Series.

A 1996 graduate of Western Alamance High School, Denham initially enrolled in ACC’s Criminal Justice program (and was a classmate of ACC’s Security Supervisor, Joyce Barba). Still unsure about what he wanted to do a few years later, Denham returned to the College and fell in love with the Culinary Technology program. Denham and classmate Jake Cerese, a New York native with an English degree, hit it off and became fast friends.

“This Carolina farm boy Bryan took New Yorker Jake on his first fishing trip and had us all laughing in class about the process,” recalled Culinary Instructor Doris Schomberg. Both students worked at restaurants during their tenure in the culinary program. Co-op students are required to find the “perfect” job via the Internet and do an appropriate resume and cover letter, said Schomberg. Not long before earning their associate degrees in 2006, Cerese found the “perfect” job working as a baker in Antarctica. Surprising everyone, both students applied and were accepted. Soon they were headed as far south as anyone can go.

“It takes about 36 hours altogether to get to Antarctica,” Denham told the ACC audience. “We had training first in Denver, then on to New Zealand where you’re given cold weather clothing. Finally on to McMurdo Station in Antarctica on a military C-17 plane.” McMurdo Station is a research center in Antarctica, 2,200 miles due south of New Zealand. It is operated by the National Science Foundation and is the largest community in Antarctica, supporting 1,200 residents. It is here in this self-contained community that Denham has worked for months on end since 2006, cooking meals for the scientists and other personnel employed there.

Denham’s work days at McMurdo Station, he says, are kept busy as one of the cooks for more than a thousand people each day. That’s a good thing; the only recreation is the Internet, movies on a big screen TV, and an occasional game of ping-pong.