Chef JD Thomas


Chef J.D. Thomas, grew up in San Diego in a family that appreciated good food. He was exposed to a wide array of cuisines at a young age and wholeheartedly participated in the cooking for family and friends during his early years. Many travels drew Chef Thomas into the world of flavor and cuisine.

Chef Thomas has worked in restaurants since the age of 14. After developing his family’s restaurants in Seattle, he was awarded a 3-star rating from Seattle’s Travel Magazine “Places Rated Northwest” for his flavorful South-American food. Leaving the restaurants behind in 1988, he attended culinary school in Portland. He earned the Valedictorian Award of his class at Western Culinary Institute while also working as a Private Chef for the Archdiocese of Portland and Louisiana Pacific Corporation. From there, Chef Thomas worked in R&D for a 30 million dollar, fresh-food manufacturing company, an Executive Chef for catering outlets, and also as a private Chef.

​He also brought his sense of humor and knowledge of culinary history to radio for over five years and has been a Culinary Educator for over 16 years. He is a proud member of the Chef’s de Cuisine Society of Oregon and was elected American Culinary Federation’s “Chef of the Year” in 2011 for the Northwest Chapter. Chef Thomas is currently Lead Instructor, Culinary Events Director, and Manager of Northwest Culinary Institute in Vancouver, WA.


Erol Kanmaz, CEC, WCC, ACE


Chef Kanmaz was born and grew up in a rural part of Southeast Turkey. The future Chef worked on his family’s farm, which helped him gain a depth of knowledge and experience about how all foods come to the table. After graduating from Anatolian Hospitality and Tourism Management Vocational School in Turkey, he studied two years of Economics at the University of Anatolia.

He worked almost every department possible in the hospitality industry while in Turkey but turned his focus to cooking when he moved to the United States in 2002. Thus, began a 10-year culinary journey at historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon.

He joined Northwest Culinary Institute as Chef Instructor in 2013.


2008 ACF’s Chef of the Year Western Regional Nomination, 2010 Chef of the Year Oregon by Chefs De Cuisine Society of Oregon, 2011 Oregon’s Seafood King and represented the State of Oregon in New Orleans at the National Seafood Cook-off.

​His Professional Certifications include Certified Executive Chef® by the American Culinary Federation, World Certified Executive Chef by World Association of Chefs Societies, Certified Evaluator for American Culinary Federation, and assists in ACF accreditation for post-secondary culinary schools.


Jared Bassett


As the grandson of a chef, Jared Bassett discovered early his love for food and cooking. At age thirteen, Jared’s first job was at a New York-style pizza restaurant in Portland, OR. Upon graduating high school, Jared enlisted in the United States Army, where he received his first culinary training. During his six years in the Army, Jared’s mess section won the “Connelly Award” four years in a row for the best Army kitchen in the Nation. While enlisted, he received several meritorious service awards.

​Jared also received formal training at Western Culinary Institute. Since graduating, he has worked in a variety of Portland restaurants including Piccolo Mondo, Jakes Famous Crawfish, Ringside West, and Newport Bay Company. Ringside West won the prestigious “James Beard Award” while he was the Chef. While at Newport Bay, Jared was a corporate trainer and helped open some new locations, training all cooks.

With over thirty years of line cooking, training, and Chef experience, Jared is enthusiastic about being a part of Northwest Culinary Institute, where he can pass on his knowledge to upcoming Chefs. In 2014, Jared took two teams of students to the US Army recipe revision competition at Fort Lewis and took first and second place.


Teressa Biggerstaff


Chef Teressa Biggerstaff’s love for the culinary arts started at a young age. She says her grandmother deserves the credit because she was a phenomenal chef and baker; her skill and excitement over creating amazing food inspired Chef Teressa to pursue culinary school.

She graduated with her degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality from Fort Jones University. After culinary school, Chef Teressa joined the United States Marine Corp as a food service specialist, where she quickly excelled and was tasked with many important projects. The most important of these projects was the annual Marine Corps birthday cake.

After serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, she got out in pursuit of her next venture, which led her to a job as a restaurant chef. She soon found she missed the structured life of the military so, she talked to an army recruiter, and just 90 days later, found herself stationed in Korea. Her talents were quickly recognized, and they earned her spot on the all-army culinary arts team. For the next 12 years, she competed and deployed with the team, winning numerous awards and teaching culinary specialties to young soldiers. The Army afforded Teressa and her husband many enjoyable experiences while expanding her culinary expertise.

After retirement, she worked as an executive chef with Ruth’s Chris for five years. Her career took her offshore, where she taught culinary arts and safety while traveling the world, mobilizing oil rigs and drill ships. When she left the oilfield, she wanted to continue teaching and came to Northwest Culinary Institute, where she presently shares her extensive knowledge of the culinary arts with our students every day.

Classes STARTING Soon!