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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Hotel Hell-of-a-Guy: Celebrity Chef Offers To Pay Tutition for Local BOCES Grad

CAMBRIDGE – Local BOCES graduate Donald “Scooter” Telford accomplished something many world-class, professional chefs have failed to do time and time again - he impressed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. So much so, in fact, that Ramsey has now offered to pay for the next four years of Telford’s culinary education.


Telford, who worked as a prep cook at the Cambridge Hotel, first met Ramsey during the filming of his show, “Hotel Hell,” for which the celebrity travels across the country to dilapidated inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts to try and turn the failing establishments around.

“I really don’t know what he picked up on,” said Telford of Ramsey’s interest in him. “But the [executive] chef that worked at that hotel, Rich Wilson, said he saw the same thing. He says that when you look at me, you can just see that I have the heart and the passion – that I cook my heart out.”

Despite Telford’s talent for cooking, the culinary arts weren’t the 20-year-old’s first passion growing up.

“I always wanted to play sports – I really enjoy playing soccer,” said Telford. “But I wasn’t really able to do sports or anything else after I had all of my surgeries.”

Telford underwent two scoliosis surgeries at a young age, when doctors placed two metal rods in his back to help correct the condition. He’s also undergone two heart surgeries – one as late as last year – that included a heart-valve replacement. Though the surgeries put him on the sidelines, they opened up another avenue that Telford may have never considered otherwise.

“I realized I had a talent for tastes and for plating and so something just clicked,” said Telford. “Everyone was like, ‘hey, why don’t you just cook?’”

Telford enrolled in a culinary arts and hospitality course at the Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex (WSWHE) BOCES school to learn the basic techniques – sanitation, cooking, breading procedures and baking, where he was fortunate enough to be a member of Chef Maureen Clancy’s class.

“My teacher, Chef Maureen Clancy, was a big influence on me,” said Telford. “I did a cake-tin decoration, and mine was a Donald Duck. She looked at me after that and told me I should look at this for a living – that I’d done a really good job.”

Inspired by his teacher, Telford went on to intern and eventually work at the Cambridge Hotel, where he first earned his nickname, “Scooter.”

“I was there for a month and a half and the chef saw how I moved around the kitchen for being my size – 5 foot 9 and a half inches – and how I could actually adapt and move around, squeeze into places. But the one thing that caught on was my speed,” said Telford. “So for just being my size, he called me Scooter.”

But it’s clear that Scooter isn’t just fast after watching the show – Telford was all business during the episode, working hard enough to impress the usually hard-to-impress Ramsey.

“My parents and I spoke the night before it happened. They just said, ok, show them what you can do and maybe something good will happen,” said Telford.

Still, Telford said he never expected to have Ramsey offer to pay all four years of his education.

“It was just sudden. He really didn’t give anybody a heads up. He just came in the room and said it right out loud, just like that,” said Telford. “At first I didn’t really know what to do. My mouth kind of dropped on the inside; my heart skipped a few beats. And all of a sudden it sunk in.”

While the Cambridge Hotel has closed since filming completed, Telford has taken Ramsey’s gift and pushed forward. Already he’s enrolled in the culinary arts program at Schenectady County Community College, and has plans on transferring to Paul Smith College for his last two years.

“I’m also working a little bit, trying to earn a little extra money. Hopefully down the road, I’d like to have my own bakery,” said Telford.

“It was just a really fun experience,” Telford added. “I wish I could do it again, but this time be on the opposite side of things, working to help Ramsey out in other places. That would be a fun experience.”

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