University of Pittsburgh

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Professional Touch

Written by Cara J. Hayden



In New York City, a teenage chef prepares a Southern-style meal. While she marinates a pork tenderloin, a woman peppers her with questions: “What are you doing now? What recipe are you using? When did you first fall in love with cooking?”

The woman asking the questions, Devra Pransky Henderson (A&S ’04), is preparing the chef for an appearance on the Today television show. Henderson is the senior director of communications for the Art Institutes, a system of 47 colleges throughout North America that provide education in culinary arts, fashion, and other artistic fields. Every year, Henderson manages four scholarship competitions for American and Canadian high school students. The winners receive tuition scholarships to Arts Institutes colleges.

Last year, Sammy Jo Claussen of Kansas City won the Best Teen Chef Competition. To promote Claussen’s success, Henderson set her up for a segment on Today. They spent two days in Manhattan rehearsing for the show. Henderson invited a food stylist to give the teen chef tips on presenting food for television, explained the do’s and don’ts of clip-on microphones, and role-played the part of a television host. Working with students, Henderson says, is one of the most rewarding parts of her job because she helps them to hone communications skills that they’ll use throughout their lives.

When the Today segment aired, Claussen smiled and spoke confidently, all while cooking under the studio lights. “She really just blossomed in terms of presence—from a senior in high school to an on-her-way professional,” says Henderson. Well done.