GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Every year, a dinner celebrating – and raising funds for – SUNY Adirondack’s culinary program is held at the program’s more recent home at 14 Hudson. This year, that dinner also became a celebration of love between a couple brought together by the program.

“I knew I wanted to do it at the school,” said Ben Pelton, who proposed to his girlfriend, Amber Rojcewicz, at the dinner at Seasoned Restaurant on Saturday night. “I was thinking just a normal, regular dinner service night. The chef being the chef, recommended the Vinter’s Night, and I said yeah, that’s a great idea.”

The engagement was a surprise for Rojcewicz, but a long time coming. She and Pelton came together through the school’s culinary arts program, although they started there at different times. Pelton met Rojcewicz at a table where she was working for SUNY Adirondack’s then-newly revamped culinary arts program at a spicy food festival at the Glens Falls Shirt Factory in 2018. Pelton had just gotten out of the U.S. Air Force, was living with his parents and looking for the next step.

After meeting at the festival, Pelton enrolled in the program that fall. Although Rocjewicz was a year ahead of him, the two shared some classes, and soon enough, a lot more. Sharing close experiences through food was a familiar experience for both.

“I’ve always loved to cook, ever since I was little,” said Rojcewicz. “My aunt was a big part of that. She would always bake with me.”

After graduating, Rojcewicz started working at Craft on 9 in Glens Falls, and found herself most at home at the front of the house. She worked there up until the birth of her and Pelton’s daughter last year, and still comes in to cover a shift or two.

Meanwhile, Pelton just started working in the kitchen at [farmacy] restobar in downtown Glens Falls. He’s worked at around eight restaurants between before and after his service in the Air Force, and kept ahold of any number of connections within the local restaurant world. When it came time to propose, those connections were just the ticket.

“I came in beforehand that morning, and everyone was congradulating me and hugging me. It’s a great community there,” Pelton said.

The choice of Vinter’s Night, suggested by program Head Chef Matt Bolton, was made even more special by a guest of honor. Joseph Carr, founder of Joseph Carr Wines, led a room of happy guests through stories of his own time working in restaurants, including as a sommelier at The Sagamore. One night there, Carr served a young man ina borrowed suit who nervously ordered a bottle of wine before proposing to his date. As Carr finished telling that story, Pelton got down on knee and followed suit.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Rojcewicz. “Ever since I had our daughter, we’ve gone to numerous fancy dinners in Saratoga where I thought ‘Tonight’s the night.’ I just thought we were going because back when we were students, it was such a great event.”

After the pair met, Pelton’s enrollment wasn’t his first at SUNY Adirondack. He had taken a single semester of classes in 2013, before his time in the Air Force, but was put off by the number of general education courses he would have to take, when all he wanted to do was cook. When he met Rojcewicz, he learned that the new version of the program was better tooled to people like him, who wanted to jump right into the craft.

As they plan their wedding and the next steps of their lives together, Pelton is excited to keep working at [farmacy]. Rojcewicz plans to return to the restaurant business when she can, once child care issues get a little easier. The restaruant industry doesn’t leave mcuh time for family life. Even so, the challenges ahead are ones that the two understand, thanks to the school program that brought them together, and taught them an important lesson about what the restaurant industry is all about.

“It’s always about the next generation,” said Pelton. “It’s about seeing the people who work with you, and underneath you, really growing into the next version of yourself, almost. You’re trying to help the people around you get better, so when you’re out, you can say, ‘I trained that person, and now look where they are.’ I think that’s what (Chef Bolton) is doing, too.”

This year’s Vinter’s Night raised $10,500 for SUNY Adirondack’s culinary arts program and its students. Pelton said that Chef Bolton and the rest of the culinary family are invited to the wedding.