So many people entered 2020 with high hopes and dreams. In fact, as the New Year’s ball dropped, they vowed to make this the best year of their lives, full of health, prosperity, and good times. Little did we know the challenges that 2020 would actually present. For many, this year may very well go down in the books as one of the most trying years of their lives. However, as sure as the sun rises in the east each morning, there is increasing hope with every new day that our community will rise and flourish again. The faculty and staff at Lake Technical College have had the privilege to see many graduates find success this year, and now we want to share their stories with you.
SUCCESS IN 2020
Here at Lake Technical College, we’re excited to welcome hundreds of students each year into our 30+ career and technical programs. It’s our mission and pleasure to prepare them for what lies ahead, so they can be successful in their chosen career. This year has been no different. Though faced with the many challenges that 2020 has presented, our students have risen to the occasion and persevered. William McCray, a Professional Culinary Arts & Hospitality graduate, is one of the many students who have found “Success in 2020.”
William came to Lake Technical College in October 2019. He had worked in the food industry for about 15 years in various locations, both as a line cook and fast food manager. Though he had experience in the field, he often felt limited or stuck in a particular prep station because he didn’t have the proper training to move forward. When life threw him a few curve balls, he began to do research on culinary schools in Florida. He found that Lake Technical College’s culinary program was listed as one of the top 10 Florida culinary schools through BestChoiceSchools.com. Realizing that Lake Tech was close to his home, he came to the campus to check it out. Impressed by the courtesy and professionalism of the staff, he decided to enroll in the Professional Culinary Arts & Hospitality program.
Propelled by his past experience, and mentored by three incredible chef instructors, William quickly excelled in the program. Chef Koenig said, “He was an incredible student! Always reliable and creative. He has a tremendous love for food and it shows.” Chef Cooper and Chef Austin emphatically agreed. They also noted that he was always willing to help and mentor other students, which made him an excellent student-leader. Whenever they would learn new recipes and techniques, he would learn quickly and cheer his classmates on.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Lake Technical College temporarily ceased face-to-face learning for the wellness and safety of all students and staff. However, classes continued virtually. William, as well as the other culinary students, continued to study and prepared recipes at home for their families. Gradually, small groups of students were invited back to campus for their final projects. As a result of hard work and dedication, William successfully completed the program in June 2020.
William said, “There were so many great opportunities at Lake Tech! I got to experience first-hand what is was like to be a chef at a restaurant. Because of this, I had five offers for jobs after graduation!” The one that he chose to take was in an up-and-coming local business, The Dock at Lakeside Lane. Owners, Kate and Barry Farley, are so pleased to have William as their Executive Chef. So much so, they also have hired another June 2020 graduate, Rachel Beckwith, to assist with their growing company. They renovated the building during the summer, and reopened for business on September 3, 2020. Mr. Farley states, “At Lakeside Lanes, we want to offer great recreation, prepare amazing food and drinks, and provide a chance to gather with friends and family for a great time… Lakeside Lane’s crew wants the experience to be memorable.” A part of what William loves most about his new job is the flexibility that his culinary team has been given to be creative. They work together to make The Dock’s ever-growing menu incredibly flavorful and full of fresh food. “We’re taking food to the next level,” says William, “It’s definitely not the normal frozen and deep-fried stuff you usually get at a bowling alley restaurant.”
Continually inspired to create and try new things, William has also started his own personal chef business. He has already served amazing food for several special events, such as anniversary dinners. He hopes to expand his personal chef business into The Villages area to assist those who choose not to, or for those who cannot, cook for themselves anymore. When asked what advice he would give to those who are considering a culinary career, he noted, “Lake Tech is awesome! You will not regret choosing to go there. And even with the current pandemic, there’s plenty of work out there, so go for it. After all,” he laughs, “People still have to eat!”