Charles A. Wentz Jr.: You can call him Chef Al

Charles A. “Al” Wentz Jr., ChE’57, MS ChE’59, grew up in Edwardsville, Ill. During his career in the oil industry and then as a textbook author, professor and environmentalist for the EPA and OSHA, he lived and worked all over the world, but returned to Edwardsville to retire. Today, Wentz runs a healthcare company that operates a Lebanon, Ill., nursing home. He holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern and an MBA from SIU Edwardsville. In his role as “Chef Al,” Wentz hosts a dozen charitable gourmet dinners and barbecues at his home every year and has published three cookbooks of recipes he perfected during his travels.

Charles Wentz

Al Wentz. (Photo by Bob Phelan)

Passions: Education, scholarships, Pi Kappa Alpha and cooking.
Wentz on education: “I decided through high school and college days that I was going to get as much education as I could. Education has always been a major goal for my family. It enhances your career opportunities.”
Wentz on scholarships: “It started with a scholarship to honor several members of a group of guys I went to high school with in Edwardsville. There were 15 of us. We were really close. After that, I worked through a local foundation to establish a scholarship with more of an engineering focus. One thing led to another and I kept establishing more and more scholarships to ‘give back,’ both in Edwardsville and at Missouri S&T. Now I give $40,000 a year to various organizations for scholarships through a number of endowments.”
Wentz on Pi Kappa Alpha: “I was president of the chapter and I took a great deal of pride in it when I was at Rolla, so I had a personal interest in seeing it prosper. When the chapter house burned to the ground in 1999, I got more involved with the chapter. Seeing the house rebuilt from ashes and watching it grow and prosper to the point it is now has been a tremendous source of pride for all the alumni, not just me. Everyone is really proud. Working with the active members, watching them graduate and go into successful careers is a wonderful thing. That’s the best part — seeing something worthwhile develop with the individuals.”
Wentz on cooking: “I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was in grade school. But I decided that chemical engineering was a career thing to do and cooking was a hobby. Having taken numerous chemistry courses at Rolla, I look on the kitchen as a chemical laboratory. When I retired in 2002, I earned a culinary arts certificate from a local college under a famous chef. It helped me understand why things work the way they do in food reparation. I decided to start calling myself Chef Al and it’s caught on pretty well. French and Italian cuisine and slow-smoked barbecue are my favorite things to prepare.”

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