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Once a Culinary Student Now a Culinary Teacher
Monday, October 05, 2015
“I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for WSWHE BOCES,” said Chef Matt Young, an alumnus from the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program at the Southern Adirondack Education Center (SAEC) in Hudson Falls.
“Chef Charles Jones, who is still teaching culinary at SAEC was my teacher,” he explained. “He has high expectations for his students, but as a result I worked to get my grades up and earned a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park.”
As a student, Chef Young also discovered that he was interested in participating in culinary competitions. He participated in ProStart competitions that are similar to the SkillsUSA competitions. “I came in second in the state competition. Then, I joined the management team to go to the national competition at Disney World. It was a great experience and made me the chef I am today,” said Chef Young.
After completing the culinary program and graduating from Hudson Falls High School, Class of 2005, Chef Young earned an associate’s degree from the CIA. That was the beginning of many opportunities for him to grow professionally. His first experience was an “externship” in the CIA program on Caneel Bay Resort, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands for three months. Then he gained more experience as a sous chef at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing and at the Banquet Hall at Inn at Erlowest. Plus, he managed the kitchen at Sunnyside Par 3 Golf Course. In between and in addition to those jobs, he started substitute teaching at the WSWHE BOCES culinary program in Hudson Falls. Eventually, he came full circle and ended up being a teaching assistant back where he started in Chef Jones’s classroom. He’s taught culinary arts in different formats for both the Special and Alternative and Career and Technical Education divisions.
Chef Jones added, “Matt is a great example of how hard work, dedication and passion helps you to excel in whatever you challenge. I think any teacher would agree that having a former student transform to become the teacher is a wonderful thing. I wish Matt many years of success and to never stop following his dreams.”
Now that Chef Young was in the role of a teacher, he also wanted to make sure his students had the same competitive opportunities he had with the ProStart competition, so he became a mentor of the ProStart Culinary Arts Team. “I wanted to teach the skills I’ve learned,” he said. He coached his student to win first in the state and then continue on to San Diego for the ProStart national competition. “The key to winning culinary competitions is organization and acting with a sense of urgency. Speed counts. You could be the best chef, but if your station looks a mess, it will count against you. It takes lots of practice.” Chef Young is now a Skills USA Advisor.
For the 2015-16 school year, Chef Young started teaching the career exploratory part of a new program designed to keep ninth graders in school. It’s the Skills Training and Education Program or STEP and he’s covering the Hospitality and Human Services career exploration part of the program that includes Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Education and Health Occupations.
Never one to just have one job, Chef Young also works as the assistant kitchen manager at Red Lobster. Not only does he rave about what a great company it is to work for, he has assisted more than 10 students to get a job there.
He likes helping people and giving back. He gives back to his alma mater, Hudson Falls High School, where he teaches culinary as an enrichment program at the 21st Century Community Learning Center.
Over the summer, he worked with the federally-funded Operation Food Chain serving lunch to kids in the park in Hudson falls. He prepares the meals at the Southern Adirondack Education Center for this program. The menu changes each day and must meet state guidelines.
If that’s not enough activity to squeeze into one person’s life, Chef Young is pursuing his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburg and Oswego to complete his teacher certification in home and careers. And, he is engaged to be married in November. He and his fiancee have talked about opening a fitness restaurant where everything would revolve around fitness.
However, the bottom line for Chef Young is that culinary is his passion. His favorite food is French cuisine and classic comfort food. “I knew what I wanted to do in 10th grade,” smiled Chef Young. “I’m from a divorced family, but food brought our family together. My grandmother was a huge cook and we’d have big family meals every Sunday. Once I get married and buy a house, I’ll take over my grandmother’s role. Food brings people together.”