Writing a New Recipe

College of Human Sciences expanding programs to north wing addition

College of Human Sciences
Ben Goh

Ben Goh

The College of Human Sciences' new wing is already paying massive dividends for Oklahoma State University. It played a major part in attracting two industry stars to help guide the acclaimed School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration even before the facility opened in August.

Ben Goh delayed his retirement in July 2014 to become assistant dean and director of HRAD after more than 20 years in academic administration, most recently at Texas Tech.

"This is the first time I've been handed a brand-new building and been told, 'Do what you do,'" Goh says. "I have friends who have been in academia forever, and they don't get a chance like that. If you add this facility to our faculty, staff and support from industry and incredible donors, I'm probably the luckiest director of hospitality in the country."

In the summer of 2015, Goh used the plans for the state-of-the-art facility to recruit Chef Tiffany Poe to become the new executive chef, clinical instructor and director of culinary operations at her alma mater. Poe is known most recently for her work with "The Pioneer Woman," Ree Drummond, a best-selling author, award-winning blogger and star of a show on Food Network. Poe was Drummond's food stylist and culinary lead consultant.

"Chef Poe was one of our distinguished chefs at an event the fall when I began my journey here in Oklahoma," Goh says. "I read her bio and said, 'She's something else.' Then I saw her interaction with the students, which was so positive. There's a way she gets them to do things, and while they're working, they are learning incredible lessons. Having been a teacher for 30 years myself, I can tell when someone has a great connection with students. So I thought, 'That's what we need in the kitchen.'"

Tiffany Poe

Tiffany Poe

Poe, a 2006 OSU graduate in career and technical education, was already extraordinarily busy. Along with her work with Drummond, she was running a number of different entrepreneurial endeavors. Her food media consulting business served such clients as the Food Network, Ladies Home Journal, Bush's Baked Beans, Trisha Yearwood, Land O'Lakes, ConocoPhillips, OSU and the Oklahoma Department of Education. In addition, she also became chef and owner of The Grandview Inn Bed and Breakfast in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Steven. As if that wasn't enough, she launched a food truck concept called Plum Delicious, serving "MediterrAsian" cuisine and catering in the Tulsa area.

An educator at heart, Poe maintained her 10-year presence in the education scene of Oklahoma by serving as an adjunct professor for Tulsa Community College, teaching in a local women's prison and working with Women in Recovery at the Kaiser Foundation. She did all this while completing her master's degree in gastronomic tourism through an online program at South Cross University and Le Cordon Bleu in Adelaide, Australia.

"I had been preparing for the next chapter of my educational journey for a while and was ready for a new challenge," Poe says. "I missed teaching, so Dr. Goh had an easy hook. I have to admit though, I did enjoy playing hard to get!"

Making the pitch

Goh was so determined to recruit Poe that he called her from his travel stops in Tokyo; Taipei, Taiwan; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during a busy summer.

"Everyone asked, 'What's your backup plan if she doesn't come?'" Goh jokingly says. "I don't have one. I told our Regents Professor Dr. Hailin Qu to get ready, if she doesn't come, we will be doing Chinese buffet!"

Poe finally said yes, based on three things. First, she was excited to help her alma mater capitalize on the incredible resources the new building wing adds.

"When does someone call you and ask you to come open a $30 million facility?" Poe asks. "It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will serve as a bedrock for the program for decades to come."

Second, she really wanted to work with Goh.

"When I met Dr. Goh, I was like, 'This is a guy I would follow into a burning building if he thought it was a good idea,'" Poe says. "He's a beautiful hybrid of a CEO and an academician and a really, really inspiring mentor. That's hard to find in our industry. For that matter, it's rare in the hospitality and education world, period."

The third reason Poe said yes was the opportunity to share her passion and connect with future hospitality professionals at OSU.

"This was the perfect place for me to be able to share everything I've built upon for the past 15 years," Poe says. "What better place than my alma mater to inspire the next generation? We get to connect with the next innovators in our field, and our program attracts students with the highest capacity for excellence that I've ever seen."

Giving back

Poe is helping OSU students as a teacher and professional and supporting them financially. She has established the Bruce Mattel Honorary Scholarship, which goes to HRAD majors planning to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after their graduation from OSU. The CIA markets itself as the world's premier culinary college, and is where Poe earned an associate degree in culinary arts, served as student body president and graduated with honors in 2002.

"Bruce Mattel was my mentor at CIA and our Distinguished Chef last spring, so I decided to honor him," Poe says. "He has been a voice that encouraged and believed in me throughout my career and is such a positive person that I wanted others to be inspired in the same way. When he was here as our guest, I felt like everything had come full circle. We now have five OSU HRAD alumni going to Hyde Park next year, so it's been a great catalysis for culinary success and partnership."

Living in Pioneer Town

Tiffany Poe and Ree Drummond

Chef Tiffany Poe, right, is known for her work with television celebrity and author Ree Drummond.

Tiffany and Steven Poe homeschool their four children. They met Ree Drummond through a community home-education group in Tulsa. Drummond encouraged the Poes to buy the beautiful old Pawhuska mansion that used to belong to the Drummond family and is now the Poes' bed and breakfast, The Grandview Inn.

"I'm an accidental food stylist and innkeeper," Poe says. "I never really set out to do either, but then again, sometimes the best things in life aren't planned."

After moving to Pawhuska in 2012 and opening the B&B, Poe worked with Drummond on 150 episodes of her Food Network show and collaborated on three cookbooks that became New York Times bestsellers.

"It was a magical four years of projects, fascinating people and lots of 'bloody meat and béarnaise,' a food the two of us share with passion," Poe says. "I feel so blessed for the amazing experience and even more grateful to share this next chapter of my life with the awesome folks at OSU."

"The Pioneer Woman" featured a segment where Drummond brought a raspberry cheesecake to the Poe family to send Tiffany off with best wishes to her new job in Stillwater.

She still calls Pawhuska home. With the opening of Drummond's new Pioneer Woman Mercantile, Poe hopes her bed and breakfast will continue to be a place for hospitality happenings and fun gatherings.

"We've hosted people from all over the world and every state in the U.S.," Poe says. "I can't wait to see what's next. I love sharing my passion for serving others and having a real-life operation in place to bring stories and inspiration to the classroom.

"I always encourage my students to 'write their life recipe,' so this keeps it real for me and helps me stay focused on why I teach and how important it is to make your passion your work and therefore 'never work a day in your life.'"