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VGCC Culinary student already gaining experience

When Whitney Ray of Stem graduates from Vance-Granville Community College’s Culinary Technology program one day, she will already have under her belt the experience of running the kitchen at a summer camp for children.

Earlier this year, Chef Ross Ragonese, who heads the VGCC Culinary program, nominated Ray for consideration for a summer job. Ragonese had been approached by Chris Richardson, Director of Financial Development for the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford, where the Culinary program is based. Richardson’s friend, Donna McGrath, is the director of Camp Rainbow, a camp in Foscoe, N.C., near Boone, and was looking for someone to manage food service for all attendees during the summer. The camp is sponsored by the Masonic North Carolina Order of the Eastern Star. Ray interviewed with McGrath in Raleigh and was offered the position. From May 15 through Aug. 1, Ray prepared three meals a day for between 25 and 45 people, including counselors and other adults, with each group of campers staying for one week.

“I learned about time management, I learned that working in a kitchen is hard work, and I learned about the importance of having a team,” Ray said later. “I had other people working for me at breakfast and lunch, but for dinner, I was the only one.” She ran the kitchen, managed personnel, handled purchasing, and performed the many tasks required to lead the culinary operation. “It’s totally different from class, because in class, you just cook one small dish, but at the camp, I had to cook massive amounts, so that was a surprise at first,” she said. Ray described the boys and girls, ages 9-17, who came to the camp from all over the state, as “really sweet.” She said the summer experience was “hard” but beneficial. “I was brand new, and I just jumped in!” Ray said. “Whitney did an outstanding job, even though, at the time, she had only learned the basic skills of a second-semester student,” Chef Ragonese said. “I’m very proud of her.”

Ray enrolled in the Culinary program in 2008. She was inspired by her grandmother, a longtime cook who taught her granddaughter what she knew. “When my grandmother passed away two years ago, I wanted to continue learning and maybe make her proud,” Ray said. “Also, I really love to cook!”

Ray now works for Simply Delicious Catering, the local business that catered the college’s 40th Anniversary Ball on Oct. 3. Ray is interested in being a caterer herself one day.

For more information about the Culinary program , call Chef Ross Ragonese at (919) 690-0312.

Above: VGCC Culinary Technology student Whitney Ray was among those working for Simply Delicious Catering at the ball held in honor of the college’s 40th anniversary on Oct. 3. (VGCC Photo)