Blythewood High community remembers William Turner, ‘The Chef’

brantin@thestate.comFebruary 3, 2014 

Blythewood High School students, faculty and staff are planning a Chef Day at the school Friday to honor a beloved former teacher who passed away this weekend.

William Turner, an award-winning culinary arts instructor who battled colon cancer for several years, died Sunday.

Turner — affectionately known as “The Chef” — started Blythewood’s culinary arts program when the school opened in 2005 and quickly made it one of the state and nation’s top programs.

Through the years, Blythewood finished in the top five at the State Culinary Competition five times and claimed the state championship in 2010 while earning a 14th-place national finish that same year.

But Turner’s culinary genius wasn’t limited to the school community.

Turner worked in several well-known Columbia-area restaurants before his teaching career, among them Garibaldi’s and Al’s Upstairs Italian Restaurant, and he brought that flair to everyday events.

Mark Riley, a friend who regularly tailgated with Turner and several others at University of South Carolina games, said his pre-game meals were always first class.

“We were the only tailgate inside the parking lot with white tablecloths and chafing dishes,” Riley said. “It didn’t matter if we had hamburgers or filets off the grill, he was going to make sure it looked like a first-class meal no matter what we did. He made our setup look as professional as if we were inside a restaurant.”

When Turner retired from his teaching position at Blythewood High in September 2012 to focus on his health and family, more than 500 members of the Richland 2 family packed the school gym for Chef William Turner Appreciation Night. The evening featured speeches, presentations and video messages from former students highlighting Turner’s contributions. There also was a 15-minute video tribute with messages from current teachers and students, and many in the gym wore Team Chef T-shirts, which had been sold to raise funds for the Team Chef fund set up through the school’s education foundation to assist the Turner family.

“Chef has made an undeniable difference in his students’ lives,” Blythewood High School student activities director Fletcher Spigner said at the time. “Chef teaches culinary skills to his students everyday but what they learn is responsibility, dedication, hard work and character.”

Turner was named Blythewood Teacher of the Year in 2008-09 and was the Culinary State Teacher of the Year in 2010-11. He often attributed his personal successes and those of the program largely to the support provided at the school.

Turner graduated from the University of South Carolina and Johnson & Wales University. He and his wife, Tori, have two daughters, Katherine Elizabeth and Ellen Grace.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 pm Thursday at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Northeast Richland. The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Kornegay & Moseley, 4645 Hard Scrabble Road, Columbia.

Friday, Blythewood High is encouraging community members to again wear Team Chef shirts. The school also is selling long-sleeve Team Chef shirts for $15 and magnets for $5. Proceeds will go to the Turner family. Stickers also will be available at the school.

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