Meet Chef Gail Sokol
Chef Gail is a chef educator, featured speaker and guest chef, speaking around the country. Chef Gail starred in the kids’ cooking series “Feed Your Brain with Chef Gail Sokol,” a project of Time Warner Cable airing in upstate New York. She has appeared on television and radio discussing cooking and baking. Since 2001, she has been a chef educator teaching Baking, Nutrition, and Sanitation for the Culinary Arts program at Schenectady County Community College. She is also an adjunct professor in the Nutrition Department at The Sage Colleges, teaching Food Science and Quantity Foods.
Noting that her baking students were having trouble understanding their textbook, Chef Gail wrote the cookbook, About Professional Baking, which has received wide acclaim. Throughout her career she has competed and won numerous culinary awards in professional chef competitions. Chef Gail created and is the director of the “Professional Baking with Kids” program at Schenectady County Community College, which has run for more than 15 years. The “young chefs” use professional equipment and make seemingly complex recipes while they learn that baking is incredibly fun and enjoyable.
Chef Gail’s passion for baking began under the guidance of her two grandmothers, who encouraged her interest and ability at an early age. Some of Chef Gail’s fondest memories are of preparing dinners and desserts with her grandmothers, learning new recipes and techniques, and ultimately sharing those meals with the rest of her extended family. Chef Gail loved spending time with her grandmothers in the kitchen, but found that those bonding moments never existed in her own family’s kitchen. Chef Gail’s mom not only did not enjoy being in the kitchen, but was so bad at it that Chef Gail and her brother would sneak bites of food into their goldfish tank during dinner to avoid eating it themselves. The fish seemed to be the only one who enjoyed dinner on those evenings, eventually eating so many meatballs, spaghetti, and liver that he outgrew his tank and had to be released into a lake at a whopping 11 inches long. When her mother received cookbooks as gifts, Chef Gail stole off with them (seeing as they were to be unused) and would read them over and over. She also watched her idol, Julia Child, religiously.
Eventually, Chef Gail’s mom gave her free reign of the kitchen as a child—with the stipulation that she clean up the mess she made and not burn down the house. She taught herself from those abandoned cookbooks, and after a learning curve, her parents started asking her to prepare dinner for the whole family. Chef Gail took her skills even further, entering cakes and muffins in a local fair, winning numerous awards for her spectacular baked goods and creative masterpieces.
Graduating from Union College with a joint degree in English and Chemistry, Chef Gail spent time working in a chemical laboratory. She also earned her M.B.A. from Russell Sage College and debated going into business. She always felt a void, though, knowing that cooking and baking were her true passions.
After her children enrolled in school, Chef Gail decided that it was now time to pursue her passion for cooking and baking even further. She attended the culinary arts program at Schenectady County Community College, eventually graduating first in her class and winning the Academic Medallion, the department’s highest honor. She worked as a pastry chef in four upscale restaurants and won numerous culinary awards in a myriad of professional cooking and baking competitions.
Chef Gail currently resides in New York State with her husband and four foot long iguana, Bernie. Bernie, a vegetarian, also benefits from Chef Gail’s culinary background, enjoying an extensive array of fresh fruits and vegetables—plated as only a chef could.