WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- When the Lexington Two Innovation Center is formally dedicated at a reception Tuesday, December 11, the food of instructor and Chef Isaac Pressley and his culinary students will be front and center.
But having that work in the spotlight is something Pressley, 22, enjoys.
“One of the most important things that drew me to the food career was the people,” said Pressley, an Airport High graduate who attended Johnson and Wales University before returning to work on a degree at the University of South Carolina. “I love the look on peoples’ faces when they are enjoying what I created.”
Pressley launched one of the district’s newest programs this fall at recently opened Lexington Two Innovation Center, where roughly 45 students are enrolled in the culinary arts program. Students recently completed their first catering job -- something Pressley hopes to do more of for events booked at the Innovation Center.
We talked recently with Pressley about his background, who inspired his love of cooking, and the Innovation Center’s culinary arts program.
What did you do most recently before coming to the Lexington Two innovation Center? My most recent job was at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, where I was part of the food and beverage team working with special events.
What drew you to the Innovation Center?
Pressley: What drew me to the L2IC was the students. I never thought I would have been a teacher, but my passion for the industry is what makes it so important for the students to get that full experience.
What's the most important thing you try to instill in your students as they consider careers in the culinary world?
Pressley: The most important thing I have -- and always will -- instill in my students is professionalism. Your goal in this industry is to make everyone feel like someone.
What are some of the trends in food and restaurants today?
Pressley: Some of the biggest trends and ‘fads’ right now are more gluten-free options, and food trucks are big on the market right now.
What advantages will students who go through the Innovation Center culinary program have when they head out into the work world?
Pressley: Some of the advantages that students will have are ServSafe certification -- and of course my favorite one, networking skills and contacts.
Who inspires you most when it comes to cooking?
Pressley: Honestly my grandmother, who passed away in December 2016, is my biggest inspiration. She taught me everything I wanted to know in the kitchen and left behind some valuable recipes.
What is your favorite thing to make?
Pressley: Cake. I love to bake!
What's the best piece of advice you give your students?
Pressley: The best advice I give my students is to let the small stuff roll off their shoulders and always have the mindset to want to learn, no matter how old you get.
Anything else we should know about you and your culinary program?
Pressley: I cannot wait to see what the students design and create in this program. The sky’s the limit!
RELATED: Innovation Center dedication set for December 11. Read more by clicking here.