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Werner Absenger

Secchia Institute for Culinary Education Program Director 


  • Ph.D. Mind Body Medicine
  • M.Sc. Human Nutrition

What are the strengths of the culinary program?

Grand Rapids has a vibrant culinary and microbrewing (Beer City USA) scene. Our culinary program seeks to provide you with an educational experience that engages business and societal needs. Because of that, we can connect you to the diverse community that allows for Grand Rapids' multi-ethnic, multi-cultural food and beer scene to thrive.

What do you like best about being a professor for the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education?

As one of the leading culinary schools in the country, our culinary program adds significant knowledge to our industry. Members of our faculty are also highly sought after industry specialists and consultants. On a daily basis, I am able to collaborate with and am exposed to my colleagues' ideas, expertise, and passion. Imagine what they can do for you!

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you first started out?

After completing my apprenticeship and chef school in Austria, I waited another 17 years to pursuing advanced degrees. Because of hindsight always being 20/20, in my next life, I won't wait that long. I encourage you to learn as much as possible about our 3+1 degree options. GRCC has articulation agreements with baccalaureate programs at Ferris State University and Grand Valley State University.

What is your current obsession?

Culinary Medicine, Functional and Integrative Nutrition, and yes, that includes Functional Beer, a.k.a. beer with health benefits. More specifically, I am interested in the juncture of western and oriental culture that is tea beer. Tea is harmonious with hop in both taste and aroma. Combining tea and beer could make for a complex combined beverage. Such a beverage could be functional (providing health benefits through tea polyphenols) and enhanced flavor (combination of tea and beer esters and terpenes).

With my arrival at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, I am looking to add one missing piece to this incredible amount of expertise and wisdom. As Program Director, I have a unique opportunity, dare I say responsibility, to develop an undergraduate research portfolio.

In addition to mastering culinary skills, participation (if you are interested) in an undergraduate research experience at Secchia Institute for Culinary Education will equip you with essential tools that will enable you to actively think about and engage in solving some of our most pressing health and environmental problems. Our institute will give you basic tools to continue your education so you may become tomorrow’s leader and global citizen - a Chef-Scholar!

Who is your hero? Why?

That would be plural... Heroes! I owe profound gratitude to all persons and teachers — the past, present, and future (those who I have yet to meet) — who share their wisdom and unconditional compassion. Collectively, they sustain and mold not only the person I am today but also the person I have yet to become.

Get a Taste of Success! 

Contact me with any questions that you have to secure your ticket to an exciting career in the hospitality industry.  

Werner Absenger
PhD, MSc
Program Director
(616) 234-3690
117 Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center