FLCC announces students on the fall 2022 dean’s list

Finger Lakes Community College announces the dean’s list for the fall 2022 semester. A total of 461 students earned this honor.

To be eligible for the FLCC fall dean’s list, full-time students enrolled in a degree or certificate program must earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and have completed 12 or more credit hours. Part-time students are included in the spring dean’s list.

Below are the students listed by county and town. Students from New York City’s five boroughs are listed under New York City.

Continue reading “FLCC announces students on the fall 2022 dean’s list”

Ryan Kovar’s FLCC toolbox

 Ryan Kovar '12, poses with one of his illustrations. Photo by Rikki Van Camp
Ryan Kovar ’12 poses with one of his illustrations at the College’s Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

As the pandemic shutdowns began in 2020, an opportunity for Ryan Kovar ’12 opened up.

Ryan, a graphic design graduate of FLCC, got a message from a children’s book author who had seen his work on hireanillustrator.com.

A year later, “Wildly Perfect” hit the market, featuring his playful, quirky images to accompany verse encouraging individuality and self-confidence.

Wildly Perfect Book Cover showing children riding an elephant
Ryan Kovar ’12 illustrated the 2021 children’s book “Wildly Perfect.”

Ryan, who has another children’s book in the works, talked about his journey as an animator and illustrator at his Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34 art gallery exhibit at the main campus. Ryan honed his own individuality and self-confidence at FLCC before he transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology to study  film and animation.

“It was a great transitional period,” he said of his associate degree work. “I learned so many different programs and design principles that it provided me a toolbox to be able to pull from when I was doing projects at RIT.”

New ways to create

Ryan chose FLCC after graduating from Canandaigua Academy in the wake of the Great Recession.

“It wasn’t really financially in the cards for me to go immediately to a four-year college,” he explained, adding, “I had been diagnosed with learning disabilities while I was in high school. I had overcome a lot, but I didn’t feel confident that I could adjust to this new kind of mindset, new environment.”

Cartoon flamingoRyan found his FLCC classes challenging, in part because he had to learn how to move from drawing on paper to using digital tools. He credits faculty for their guidance as they introduced him to the different facets of graphic design in a manageable way.

As an individual with autism, Ryan used art to express the thoughts and feelings he had trouble sharing verbally. Elaine Verstraete helped him sharpen his illustration style, which embraces the unusual and absurd.

“Elaine encouraged me to be myself artistically,” he said. “She gave me the opportunity to learn so much more about illustration and the illustration process. A lot of what she taught I still remember to this day. She was a big influence.”

John Fox showed him how to make an animation sequence. “It was really cool that he gave me and others a chance to get a taste for that before moving on to RIT, where I studied it full time. It definitely reinforced that I do enjoy this and I can do this, and I’ll get better in the future.” 

Ryan took sculpture with Barron Naegel, who organized his recent gallery show, and graphic design with Liz Brownell. “She helped me a lot with understanding the concept of design and transitioning from traditional to digital,” he said. 

“I had never tackled working in programs like PhotoShop before, and it was a struggle to learn it,” he added. “It’s hard for anybody to change or try something new, but it’s especially hard for someone on the spectrum to break the routine. Almost everything I originally struggled with at FLCC is a tool that I can easily use nowadays. I think I wouldn’t have done quite as well at RIT if I didn’t have that early experience.”

Finishing his general education classes at FLCC also helped him focus at RIT on his film and animation courses. While there, he was able to direct three animated short films. His senior project, “Hunt or Be Hunted” has been featured at short film festivals.

The next book

Since graduating from RIT in 2016, he has created a range of art as a freelancer, from magazines and print advertising to short films and a cartoon series. Ryan often gives animals a comical aspect with unusual colors and human expressions, and he draws outlandish creatures with odd mixes of tentacles, eyes, fins and feathers. 

“I specialize in creating fun, whimsical illustrations of cartoon characters, animals and fantastical other-worldly creatures, who can express a wide range of emotion through clear expressions and strong poses,” he said. “Making the unusual relatable is what drives me to create.” 

“Wildly Perfect,” with text by Brooke McMahan, is available on Amazon where reviewers praise the message as well as the illustrations, which one reader called “captivating and clever.” Last year, another children’s author reached out to Ryan. He wrapped about 50 illustrations for “Wake the Wolf” by Maurizio Lippiello over the summer and is waiting to hear on a publication date. He is also working on text and illustrations for his own children’s book.

See more of Ryan’s work at ryankovar.com and on Instagram: @kovarcreations.

Well-timed: Kevin Stottler’s story

An encounter with a professor leads to a career in the positioning, navigation and timing industry.

In the mid-2010s, Kevin Stottler ’20 was working for a company that made encoded plastic cards. Think hotel key cards, gift cards, ID cards.

Head and shoulders image of Kevin Stottler
Kevin Stottler ’20

He wanted something more engaging, but this was before the Great Resignation when job interviews were harder to come by. “I think without a degree I was having trouble getting traction with other employers,” he said.

Kevin decided to contact Sam Samanta, coordinator of the smart systems technologies program, whom he had met at a job fair at the Victor Campus Center about six months earlier.

“I was like OK, I need to get some more stuff on my resume here to have a leg up looking up for more challenging jobs.”

In less than two years Kevin had an internship, then a job with Orolia, a manufacturer of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems in Rochester that serves a wide range of industries. “Anything that needs precise time to work,” he explained, “data centers, telecommunications systems, banks, broadcast networks, and there’s a bunch of defense applications.” Continue reading “Well-timed: Kevin Stottler’s story”

IT alumni say keeping skills sharp is key in this ever-evolving industry

Adam Keuer ’13 is the assistant IT director at the Mozaic human service agency in Waterloo and a 2013 graduate of the networking and security associate degree program, now called networking and cybersecurity. Photo by Jan Regan

As assistant IT director for Mozaic in Waterloo, Adam Keuer ’13 enjoys designing the computer networks that help his colleagues at the human service agency get their work done. 

“I have always been a very logical thinker,” he said, referring to the tasks involved in getting computers to talk to each other efficiently and securely. “It feels like home for me.”

Home took a while to find. Adam logged a years-long trek through three majors at two other colleges and a detour into retail management before finding his way to FLCC’s networking and security program.

His story is not uncommon among the College’s IT alumni, some of whom found their niche in unexpected ways. Continue reading “IT alumni say keeping skills sharp is key in this ever-evolving industry”

26 earn GED, opening doors to work and higher ed

Graduate speaking at podium
Colleen Blough-Shear of Hemlock, who earned a general equivalency diploma at Finger Lakes Community College, was among the speakers at a graduation ceremony in June at the main campus.

Twenty-six residents of five counties earned a general equivalency diploma (GED) through Finger Lakes Community College over the last year.

FLCC offers free day and evening classes to help students prepare for the GED exam in English or Spanish. Classes are offered in Canandaigua, Geneva, Lyons, Newark, Penn Yan, Sodus, Victor and Wolcott.

Program advisors also offer students assistance with selecting career goals and enrolling in post-secondary education and training.

Students are admitted into the program all year and are given a flexible time frame for completing it. New students entering GED classes must take an in-person pretest in math and reading.

For more information, email GED@flcc.edu or call (585) 785-1431.

The full photo album is on the FLCC Flickr page.

This year’s graduates are as follows:

LIVINGSTON
Hemlock: Colleen Blough-Shear

ONTARIO
Bloomfield: Anamari Reyes
Canandaigua: Kimahri Dunbar, Benjamin Kraft, Clayton Woodard
Farmington: Michael Williams, Kennedy Kirk, Travis Wuilliez
Geneva: Tyler Copeland
Naples: Oliver Abraham
Phelps: Jacob Senecal
Shortsville: Lehi Weed
Victor: Caitlin Hoad, Jacob Kleiman

SENECA
Seneca Falls: Angelina (Alex) O’Connor, John Reid

WAYNE
Clyde: Tia Salmon
Ontario: Lily St. Denny, Stacie White, Amanda Wright
Palmyra: Joshua Hall, Lacey Robbins

Savannah: Rachael Ruffle

YATES
Penn Yan: Calli Knapp, Bryant Miller

502 students named to FLCC spring 2022 dean’s list

A total of 502 full- and part-time students were named to the Finger Lakes Community College dean’s list for spring 2022.

To be named to the dean’s list, students must have a 3.5 grade point average and meet other criteria as follows:

Full-time students are eligible if they are matriculated – meaning enrolled in a degree program – and achieve a 3.5 grade point average for the semester (12 or more hours of earned credit) with no grade below passing and no incompletes.

Part-time students are eligible if they are matriculated, have completed a minimum of 12 credit hours at FLCC, earn a combined total of at least 12 credit hours for a given year and achieve a 3.5 grade point average with no grade below passing and no incompletes. The student must be part-time for both semesters. The dean’s list for part-time students is compiled at the end of the spring term only.

Continue reading “502 students named to FLCC spring 2022 dean’s list”

211 FLCC students named to Phi Theta Kappa honor society

Man at podium
Canandaigua City Manager speaks to the newest members of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at FLCC.

The Finger Lakes Community College chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honor society for two-year colleges, inducted 211 members over the course of the last year.

Canandaigua City Manager John Goodwin, who joined PTK while a student at Jamestown Community College, was the keynote speaker at ceremony in May. He described his path to his current role in public administration, urging students to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Goodwin also shared his thoughts on leadership, explaining his personal emphasis on honesty, transparency and authenticity.  “There’s no limit what you can accomplish, or what can be accomplished, if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” he added.

Phi Theta Kappa promotes scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. FLCC’s chapter, Alpha Epsilon Chi, was chartered in 1981 and provides leadership, service and scholarship opportunities for members. Membership requires completion of 15 hours of associate degree coursework and a GPA of 3.0. Phi Theta Kappa members also serve as campus ambassadors.

A photo album is on the FLCC Flickr site

Post photo of three people
Naomi Cromer, vice president of the FLCC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa; Sim Covington, FLCC chief diversity officer and advisor to the chapter; and John Goodwin, Canandaigua city manager, PTK member and keynote speaker at the induction ceremony.

New members are listed below by county and town:

ALBANY
Albany: Tiffany Williams

ALLEGANY
Andover: Alicia Persons

BROOME
Endicott: Ceandra McCall

CHAUTAUQUA
Jamestown: Denise Swezey

CHEMUNG
Erin: Abigail Loper
Horseheads: Rachel Difasi, Josiah Fewkes

CLINTON
Ellenburg Center: Nicholas Filion
Plattsburgh: Victoria Aguilar

ERIE
Angola: Hanna Donovan
Cheektowaga: Nicolas Churchman
Clarence: Center Owen Probst
Lackawanna: Cody Paternostro, Nicholas West

JEFFERSON
Watertown: Cindy Gay

LIVINGSTON
Conesus: Danielle Trescott
Dansville: Teah Arriaga, William Barrett, Logan Kanaval
Lima: Jake Williams
Livonia: Jared King, Elaina Palmeri
Nunda: Alexandra Hugi

MONROE
Brockport: Amanda Meyer
East Rochester: Lydia Fanara
Fairport: Christopher Braun, Hannah Denigro, Justin Myers, Kai Vogt
Hamlin: Maxwell Jackson
Henrietta: Corrina Rosenfeld
Hilton: Gary Shadders
Honeoye Falls: Brianna Wise
North Chili: Carlos Torres
Penfield: Emily Muchard
Pittsford: Gem Sung
Rochester: Brittany Bland, Adam Callari, Naomi Cromer, Charles Domm, Russell Domm, Rene Garnica , Hanna Roman, Michael Solazzo
Webster: Michael Ditullio, Kayla Halstead, Sarah Hendrickson, Shane Thompson
West Henrietta: Nathan Muller

NASSAU
Elmont: Gary Diaz
Old Bethpage: Heather Lonic

NEW YORK CITY
Brooklyn: Andrew Bogovych

ONONDAGA
Baldwinsville: Matthew Rose
Liverpool: Edward Dumas
Syracuse: Jenna Horton, Joseph Suddaby

ONTARIO
Bloomfield: Glory Gumaer, Catherine Molloy, Mackenzie Smith

Canandaigua: Timothy Atkins, Elizabeth Bentley, Griffin Bond, Rachel Boock, Nicholas Brunelli, Russell Cammarata, Mikayla Coleates, Shelby Debeer, Daniel Disalvo, Carley Ducar, Amber Ertel, Margaret Evarts, Elaina Flynn, Michael Flynn, Kirsten Ham, Samuel Healy, Benjamin Koeberle, Jaxson Marsh, Tyler Marsh, Mikayla Martineau, Morgan Mitchell, Matthew Neininger, Aynsley Rossmann, Erich Rudolph, Sarah Schmeer, Susan Schmeer, Keegan Trainor, Kara Veatch, Aidan Vitticore, Cassie Ward, Erik Winarski

Clifton Springs: Nita Schumacher, Meghann Devito, Olivia Fullerton, Perry Galens, Shae Morrow, Gabrielle Steingraber, Michele Williams

Farmington: Sophia Attardi, Jessica Avery, Emily Butcher, Matthew Butts, Matthew Cary, Haley Fisher, Roy Hibbert III, Delvy Koumba-Mouity, Grace Ledgerwood, Amber Maliborski, Roger Purcell, Marcus Smith

Geneva: Sofia Candidori, Andrew Chilbert, Lucas Cupelli, Janeika Delgado, Nicholas Mazzocchi, Amanda Owens, Kaitlyn Roach

Honeoye: Victoria Armstrong

Manchester: Timothy Baley, Jena Caramazza

Naples: Bruce Elwell, Brianna Faber, Ethan Friend, Theresa Hays, Cris Kenney, Kim Nelson, Ava Sheedy

Phelps: Hayley Peisher, Erik Verdehem

Port Gibson: Daria Algier, Amanda Klahn

Rushville: Madison Jackson

Shortsville: Evan Walker

Stanley: Brianna Demarco

Victor: Julia Baldwin, William Brady, John Davis, Samantha Farrelly, Jonah Grbic, Christine Miller, Delayne Reagan, Aliyah Sone, Nicholas Ward

ORANGE
Port Jervis: Lynnlee Ennis

OTSEGO
Springfield Center: Isabel Daley

SENECA
Interlaken: Julia Diamond, Meghan Housem, Josh Maslyn
Ovid: Larinda Cordell, Carolyn Natale
Seneca Falls: Xavier Castellaneta, Kobe Laprade, Olivia Yancey
Waterloo: Nehemiah Williams

STEUBEN
Cameron: Hannah Hoffman
Prattsburgh: Elijah Lenhard
Wayland: Audrianna Barnard, Mikayla Bernal

SUFFOLK
Deer Park: Maria Hearn
West Islip: Jake Squicciarini

TOMPKINS
Enfield: Jesse Rogers
Ithaca: Lindsey Reynolds

WAYNE
Clyde: Tabitha Elmer

Lyons: Riley DeCola, Danielle Pinckney, Tia Stowell

Macedon: Alea Javorowsky, Nicole Jerzak, Leah Lloyd

Marion: Dana Bergeron, Briana Chauncey

Newark: George Andrew, Robert Bacchetta, Amber Blanchette, Benjamin Cepulo, Destiny Rodriguez-Bellinger, Keith Rolenaitis, Sheridan Verstraete

North Rose
David Fantuzzo

Ontario: Tessa Edwards
Palmyra: Grace Boesel, Emma Brooks, Dylan Ellis, Danielle Englert, Devon Harmon, Jay Huddleston, Kalie Mitchell, Carissa O’Lena, Makayla Simmons, Samuel Wizeman

Sodus: Garret Anderson, Andrew Dietrich

Walworth: Jillian Angotti, Catherine Rainwater, Krystal Sippel

Williamson: Gavin Fernaays, Crystal Polak

Wolcott: Jenavieve Brown

WESTCHESTER
Yonkers: Joseph Hofstede

WYOMING
Attica: Parker Remington

YATES
Dundee: Akiya Brewer, Harlan Nolt
Penn Yan: Elise Andersen, Mason Bishop, Jaina Doyle, Marilyn Hawley, Madison Hobbs, Jenna Kinner, Audrey Rodriguez
Rushville: Kristin Ireland

OUT OF STATE
East Haven, Conn.: Angelica Lawler

SUNY honors FLCC student for overcoming hardship

Headshot of Sarah Frost
Sarah Frost

Sarah Frost of Geneva, a graphic design major at Finger Lakes Community College, was among 45 State University of New York students honored in April with the Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence. 

The award recognizes students in the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) for their academic merit and strength in overcoming significant personal obstacles.

Frost, 38, has struggled with learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyscalculia, which makes it harder to do tasks involving math. She has also coped with COVID isolation and a physically disabling illness.

“Slowly but surely, I have started to regain my strength. I am so grateful for my teachers, I have no words that can equal the amount of gratitude I feel for them,” she said. “The same goes for my EOP support. Having weekly meetings where I can touch base with my advisor, Nicole (Siegwarth), felt like having family care for you.”

Frost also found encouragement in joining the student organization AALANA, which stands for African American Latino/a, Asian and Native American. She plans to transfer to a four-year school and continue her studies in graphic design.

“Sarah is a shining example of what it means to be an EOP student and a Norman R. McConney Jr. Award recipient. Her will to succeed is a testament to her perseverance, grit, resilience and determination,” said Lisa Thomas, director of the EOP program at FLCC. “Even when things seemed impossible, Sarah dug deep, utilized her resources, and turned things around. She continues to rise above her circumstances, and we are excited to see her continue her journey.” 

Frost encourages other students struggling with illness and disability not to give up.

“It’s going to be hard at times, but remember to talk to your EOP advisors. They will never steer you wrong, and they will always be there when you need them. Just keep trying,” she added.

The Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence is named in memory of a graduate of the University at Albany and former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY. McConney (1946–2016) and former Assembly Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve helped create EOP as a statewide program.

Frost attended an award ceremony in Albany on April 14 with Thomas and Siegwarth, the EOP academic support outreach specialist.

“I can tell you this right now, if not for EOP, I would not have made it this far. When I was running low on food, they assisted me. When I needed new school supplies, they were there,” she said. “I think that every school needs people like Lisa and Nicole because without them a lot of underprivileged students would get lost in the shuffle.”

“I have had the great fortune of working with Sarah very closely in my role,” Siegwarth added. “She is warm, talented, funny, and spirited. Her inner strength and motivation to be successful in life despite the many personal, academic, and financial hurdles she has faced is inspirational. I wish it was something that I could bottle and share with all of our students. I am so proud of her and her determination and cannot wait to see what comes next. She knows I will always be there to offer support and to cheer on her success.”  

Since its inception in 1967, the EOP has provided access, academic support, and supplemental financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. In its 55-year history, the EOP has served more than 78,000 students and evolved into one of the country’s most successful college access programs.

 In the current academic year, SUNY has nearly 8,000 EOP students on 50 SUNY campuses. EOP students often outperform their peers, with 74 percent of them graduating with a baccalaureate degree within six years.

Frost credited several faculty and staff for contributing to her success.

“I would like to give a special thank-you to my teachers and staff: Margaret Pence, Barbara J. Senglaub, Lacey McKinney, Nicole Siegwarth, Lisa Thomas, Dorren Allen-Carr, Sim Covington, Amy McGowan, Andrea Cornett, Suzanne Marino, Jodi Merklinger, Melissa Soules, and Aaron Sullivan. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without knowing it, you have helped make my dreams come true,” she said.

From the Laker: Recipes for balance

Gary Parmelee roasting a marshmellow dessert with torch
Gary Parmelee ’14 experiments with a dessert at FLX Hospitality.

In the spring alumni magazine, three culinary alumni talk about building careers in a creative, demanding field while finding time for friends and family.

What does Gary Parmelee like to cook?

“Anything that I don’t know how to cook,” says Gary, a 2014 culinary arts graduate and the production manager for FLX Hospitality. “I like to fully immerse myself. Right now, I am really, really big into baking bread, so I’ve got every one of my bread-baking books out. I’m learning about sourdough, and I’ve got bagels proofing right now.”

It is a winter afternoon and he has time to experiment. Gary is a culinary arts professional on vacation, which runs counter to the industry stereotype of never-ending hours, hot kitchens and irritable chefs. The Finger Lakes food and beverage landscape is in flux, expanding to serve the demand for local, artisanal foods and contracting with pandemic restrictions and labor shortages. Amid it all, three culinary alumni have achieved greater work-life balance, and they hope it becomes a long-term trend. 

These days, Gary works mostly 9 to 5, coordinating prep for the FLX Hospitality family of businesses. This includes the farm-to-table restaurant FLX Table and FLX Fry Bird, serving specialty fried chicken. Another alumna, Sabrina Miller ’15, owns Sabrina’s Bake Shoppe, a short walk from her three children’s school in Penn Yan. 

Kurt Hass ’19 of Cohocton, says his job as resident director for AVI Food Systems, the dining vendor for Genesee Community College, leaves time for family. Drawn to culinary arts for its creativity and community, all three put in the hours and endured COVID disruptions to arrive at a place where they can combine their passion and personal lives.

Discovering culinary

Kurt Hass cooking over a commercial indoor grill
Kurt Hass ’19 is now the resident manager for the food service vendor at Genesee Community College.

Gary grew up in Geneva around food. His mother worked in food service and his grandma whipped up everything from pasta to tenderloin to homemade chicken soup. After high school, he went to SUNY Alfred for architecture but found it tedious.

Then, he started cooking for his lacrosse team. 

“I thought, ‘I really enjoy this and all these people are pitching in money and want me to cook a meal, and they’re really thrilled about it and want me to do it often.’”  

Gary switched gears and transferred to FLCC.

Kurt discovered his penchant for cooking later in life. After serving with the Marines, he worked in CNC (computer numerical control) machining for the aerospace industry and took an interest in barbecuing. 

“I had a smoker in the backyard, and some friends and I started doing some barbecuing, and I found out that I have somewhat of a knack for doing this,” he says. He entered Kansas City Barbecuing Society (KCBS) competitions and started winning.

“My wife, Sharon, is basically the one who pushed me to go to culinary school at 41 years old. She’s the one that saw the passion, saw the desire, saw the drive and encouraged me to pursue it.”

Sabrina had been making elaborate pastries for family and friends for years. Her shop’s Facebook account features photos of sugar-cookie cutouts shaped like Keuka Lake and a Harry Potter-inspired birthday cake (Slytherin house). 

By 2013, she was 28 and a divorced mom with twin boys and a baby girl. Sabrina felt she needed to do something for herself and discovered the culinary arts program, which had opened two years earlier. “When I saw culinary, I thought it was the best of both worlds. I could go ahead and prove to myself that I could manage college while doing something I love.”

Going to school

Still, college could not be all passion without practicality. Gary was working full-time, and Kurt and Sabrina had children.

“I was able to take full-time classes and still be able to navigate my kids’ school schedule,” Sabrina says. “Having the night classes helped. You can jam a lot of credit hours into a little bit of time.”

Sabrina Miller holding plate of cookies
Sabrina Miller ’15 owns and operates Sabrina’s Bake Shoppe in Penn Yan.

One of Sabrina’s twins was diagnosed with cancer at age 5. He was 18 months into his treatment when she enrolled. 

“I was working part-time four days a week, and then had the cakes, and I cleaned houses on the side while dealing with CJ’s treatment,” she explains. “There would be weeks when he was immunocompromised, and he needed me at home. Chef (Associate Professor Jamie Rotter) would let me make up assignments as much as possible and do things online.”

CJ, now 15 and in remission, joins brother Logan and sister Bella, 11, at the bakery after school.

Gary, too, says night classes were integral to his success because they allowed him to hold down a job. The program also requires 600 internship hours, and Gary’s assignment at the New York Wine and Culinary Center led directly to full-time work.

“I was there on Saturday nights and working the line and putting out banquets … the requirement to do an internship and fully dive into a Saturday night in a restaurant is probably why I am where I am today,” he says.

The culinary center hired Gary even before graduation, and he spent six years as a chef there before moving on to be the chef at FLX Table in 2018. 

“What I loved most about being a chef is the ability to engage with the guests. Ninety-eight percent of the time you are chatting with guests that are having a really nice time, and they want to know more about you,” he says. “It opens the conversation up to you learning about them.”

Looking back, Gary also appreciates the ServSafe food safety certification he earned as part of the program. “An unbelievable amount of knowledge comes from being able to take ServSafe,” he adds.

Kurt interned at Bully Hill Winery and the Waterfront Restaurant in Hammondsport. “The internship was critical. It gives culinary students a taste of the real world. In a restaurant you’ve got a customer waiting on you versus a lab where you have the rest of your teammates helping you,” he notes. 

“The other big part was the business classes, how to basically run a successful business out of culinary versus just how to cook. Jamie and Patrick (Rae) have put just as much information into that two-year program as they possibly can.”

Thriving, then surviving

By the close of the 2010s, the Finger Lakes food and beverage business was humming. Craft brewing was well-established and distilleries were opening. Real Eats, maker of vacuum packed, prepared meals, opened in 2017 in the Geneva Enterprise Development Center.

In 2018, Wine Spectator magazine recommended FLX Table, where Gary was preparing meals, as a stop between tastings in the Finger Lakes, and Wine Enthusiast podcaster Jameson Fink praised the growing family of FLX businesses.

Sabrina opened her bakery in April 2019 following a serendipitous visit to her chiropractor, who had just bought the Arcade building with a vacant storefront in Penn Yan.

After graduation in 2019, Kurt helped friends open Station 26 bar and restaurant in Cohocton then jumped at the chance to serve as executive chef for AVI at the FLCC main campus.

Then came March 2020 and everything changed.

Gary was furloughed during FLX Table’s temporary closure. FLCC shut down its cafe, prompting AVI to move Kurt to Alfred University. Sabrina scrambled to adjust by setting up times when people could window shop for baked goods and pay using a touchless card reader.

After getting through 2021 in what she called “survival mode,” Sabrina is considering expanding her menu, perhaps adding breakfast sandwiches.

Magazine cover featuring bakery owner Sabrina MIller
The cover of the spring 2022 Laker magazine. Click here to view the electronic version.

Kurt feels fortunate to be part of a company that kept him working. From Alfred, he spent a few months at Keuka College before landing at GCC. He still sees restaurants struggling with COVID protocols and labor shortages. Workers with more choices are opting for jobs with better hours or benefits. 

“I think if restaurants want to continue to succeed they’re going to have to change the way that they do business,” he says. “The 70-hour work weeks are going to end up being a thing of the past.”

“A lot of people are starting to set boundaries and ask for a little more work-life balance,” Gary adds. “People are begging for a normal life with something they love.”

Jamie agrees balance is possible, but both employees and employers will have to work at it.

“Balancing a career in any facet of the culinary arts industry takes dedication and discipline. If you don’t gain that balance, the work can burn you out. Many employers are more cognizant of this potential for employee burnout as well as its toll on the bottom line,” he says. 

“It’s tougher for chefs; they can’t just walk away and take the time when things get rough. Employers are starting to figure this out, and slowly but surely many are beginning to adjust the way that they do business.”

Changes ahead

Underneath the current turmoil, the food and beverage industry holds promise for people to make a living and have a life. Jamie, the culinary arts program coordinator, stressed the range of opportunities with high school counselors at an event at New York Kitchen in December 2021.

“When you think of culinary arts, the first career that comes to mind is restaurant chef. It’s a good career choice … but that is really just the beginning. Our message to students is that culinary offers a wide range of careers and lifestyles. You can be a chef without having to work every Saturday night,” he told the room.

“Culinary is a great gig, and you have to really love it to do it, but there are outlets to express your creative ability through food,” Gary agrees. “You can work in a commissary space, you can sell food to kitchens. Or you can do food production for a place like Real Eats.”

That said, he adds, the culinary field is demanding and the hours can be long.

“Everyone can tell you, ‘Oh you don’t want to be a chef. You’re not going to be here for Christmas,’” he begins. “I proved them wrong. I went in and I did it and, granted, they were right and I was right. 

“There are definitely things I missed out on, but I am able to enjoy those things now because I put the work in, formulated my own opinion and decided this is what I want to do. You do have to pay your dues, but the more you learn, the easier you make your life.”

Sabrina strives to find a balance between building her business and remembering the reason she got into it.

“Don’t be scared of long hours. They will pay off. If it’s something that you enjoy doing, it doesn’t become a job,” she says. “Make sure you leave time to be your own creative self. Filling orders for other people all the time pays the bills, but it doesn’t necessarily help with the creative part of it.”

Kurt, who has a managerial role in food service, still fires up a grill or smoker any chance he gets.

“My favorite days are the days I get to put on the white chef’s coat and actually cook again. Every chance I get, when the weather is nice, I like to barbecue at home or at a friend’s house. That’s definitely where my love comes from.”

Note: Alumni, please share your news with us, including new jobs, promotions, awards, marriages, children or an amazing life experience. Use our form to stay in touch.

464 FLCC students named to fall 2021 dean’s list

Finger Lakes Community College announces the dean’s list for the fall 2021 semester. A total of 464 students earned this honor.

To be eligible for the FLCC fall dean’s list, full-time students enrolled in a degree or certificate program must earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and have completed 12 or more credit hours. Part-time students are included in the spring dean’s list.

Below are the students listed by county and town:

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