Focus on Faculty: Q&A with Chef Gary
Years of experience as a corporate chef leads to a new career in the classroom
Chef Gary Lyons is proof that a strategic nudge can be life-changing. Chef Gary says he entered the workforce straight out of high school and his employer is the one who nudged him to enroll in culinary school. Years later, he was nudged again by his culinary staff to consider a teaching position at FVTC. Both worked out well for Chef Gary.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Appleton, WI. In 1988, I was enrolled in the Woodworking Technology program at Fox Valley Technical College while working at Butte des Morts Country Club. One day the Chef asked if I would like to go to culinary school, so I started at FVTC under the Cooks Apprenticeship program that fall. I completed that in 1992 and continued to work at Butte des Morts Country Club for 13 years. I also worked as an Executive Chef for Ridgeway Country Club and Wisconsin Regional Chef for Troon Golf.
During this time, I also returned to FVTC and obtained an associate degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelor’s degree from Lakeland University in Business Administration with Hospitality Emphasis. I joined FVTC as an instructor in the Culinary Arts program in 2006.
Tell us about the classes you teach at FVTC.
I currently teach Quantity Cooking which is a foundational cooking class with French techniques in large quantity amounts. This class gives students basic foundational skills that they can apply to their careers.
I also teach Food, Beverage and Labor Cost Controls. Students learn inventory processes, how to apply food and beverage costing to menu pricing, and labor controls in a food service setting. This class helps students learn how to be successful in the management part of their career.
In my role, I also order food and supplies for the culinary and baking programs.
What attracted you to teaching as your profession?
In high school, I had one teacher that seemed to really connect with me. I remember him so well. He started my thought of being a teacher. I went into the workforce after high school because college wasn’t a thought for me.
Throughout my career, I would be reminded of my interest in teaching and as a chef, I taught my staff new things all the time. When an instructor position opened at FVTC, several of my employees who had graduated from the FVTC program encouraged me to apply, as did another instructor already on staff. I interviewed and accepted the position in 2006.
What do you enjoy most about your students?
I enjoy the connections with the students; finding out about their goals and helping them find a path to accomplish those goals.
If you could share one piece of advice with students, what would it be?
Not everything will come easy, even if you put in 100% effort. How you learn from it—and what you do next time—is what matters.
If you were not teaching students at FVTC, what would you do?
I probably would be a corporate chef for a big manufacturing company.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
I do like to entertain and invite friends and family to our house. I will try to cook things that will leave a lasting impression on them.
What’s something that might surprise your colleagues and students?
FVTC was once asked to help with a cooking event in Green Bay. We were asked to do demonstrations and help Chef Bobby Flay prep for his two cooking shows. I oversaw eight students and cooked with Bobby Flay. It was a great experience for the students and me. This was not the first celebrity chef that I worked with, but he was the most famous.
Careers in Culinary Arts
Restaurant/Food Service Manager