BVT Chef Honored at Educator of the Year Awards
Chef Matthew Williams (far left) was recently named runner-up in the secondary school category of the 2015 Center for Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ)/Sysco Corporation Educator of the Year Awards.
Williams, an eleven-year instructor and team leader in the BVT Culinary Arts program, was one of two secondary educators recognized in July as the best in their field by the 2015 Center for Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ)/Sysco Corporation Educator of the Year Awards. This year marked the first in which Sysco, the world's leading foodservice distributor, sponsored the awards to recognize the tremendous industry contributions of foodservice instructors throughout the United States.
"Sysco is pleased to be part of honoring the educators who train the professionals who, in turn, will shape the future of American dining," said Neil Doherty, Sysco's director of culinary development.
In applying for the award, Williams asked thirteen colleagues and former students to write letters of recommendation and hoped that a few of them would follow through. To his surprise, each of the thirteen wrote letters praising Williams' passion for culinary arts and his ability to teach skills in the kitchen that are applicable in all walks of life. One such letter was written by Corey Bunnewith, who graduated from BVT's Culinary Arts program and went on to become the co-founder & proprietor of the recently opened Boston Harbor Distillery.
"I'm learning, eight years later, about adaptive capacity," Bunnewith wrote. "I'm realizing now that this ability to create opportunity, to nurture resilience, to be proactive in an ever-changing ecosystem was exactly what [Chef Williams] was teaching every day [when] the doors unlocked and the stoves turned on."
Williams' packet of recommendations also featured several letters from his colleagues at Blackstone Valley Tech, where he is credited with leading students in the production of the annual Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner, contributing to BVT's culture of positivity, and continuously adapting the Culinary Arts program to maintain industry relevance. Further praise for Williams' work at BVT was offered by officials from some of the nation's top culinary schools.
"It is a testament to his dedication that over the past three years, twenty-four of his graduates have met the exacting standards for and been offered admissions," wrote James Richard, director of culinary admissions at Johnson & Wales University. "Such a high level of success from any individual secondary education program must be not only the product of an exemplary educator, but also a motivating and inspiring ambassador of the craft and art of culinary excellence."
Initial plans called for the selection of one Secondary Educator of the Year Award winner, but the CAFE and Sysco judges were so impressed with the quality of this year's applicants that they created a runner-up award in both the secondary and post-secondary categories. In July, Williams was named the winner of the runner-up Secondary Educator of the Year Award at the CAFE's 11th Annual Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls, NY, where he exemplified the commitment to continuous improvement referenced in so many of his letters of endorsement.
"Winners received free registration to the conference, which was awesome," Williams explained. "I connected with other educators, made some new industry partnerships, and came back to BVT with a ton of fresh ideas."
Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School serves the towns of Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton and Uxbridge. Located in the heart of the Blackstone Valley, Blackstone Valley Tech creates a positive learning community that prepares students for personal and professional success in an internationally competitive society through a fusion of rigorous vocational, technical, and academic skills. The school’s website is www.valleytech.k12.ma.us.