Shay Prokopchuk, Culinary Arts

Shay is a culinary arts graduate at Cypress College who will continue working at the Main Street restaurants in Disneyland while finishing his second associate degree in business management at Fullerton College. Originally a biology major with aspirations of becoming a doctor, he decided to change majors when he realized that would mean about 12 more years of schooling. He found his passion in culinary when he stepped into a kitchen role at Disneyland, where he has now worked for seven years, and dreams of one day opening his own restaurant.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in the South Corona/Lake Elsinore area out in the Inland Empire region of Southern California. I skateboarded, played football in high school, etc.; nothing out of the ordinary. I started college at Mt. San Jacinto College at the Menifee campus. As a biology major, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, until I realized that it takes close to 12 years of schooling. I started working at the Disneyland resort and transferred to Fullerton College. I changed my major to business because I knew I wanted to open my own business but had no idea what type of business. Two years later, I stepped into a kitchen role at Disney and everything clicked and fell into place. That was when I knew that I wanted to be a chef and open a restaurant one day. A year after that, I began my time at Cypress College and haven’t looked back. I am still working on my associate degree in business management at Fullerton College.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

By suggestion from my sous chefs at work, I looked into Cypress’ programs and found experienced, knowledgeable chefs running the program.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I have had several opportunities to help the chefs with special events and was part of the management team for the 2017 Career Expo.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about food and music. I’m a terrible musician, so luckily, I found a career for my other passion. Both are always changing, evolving in new directions. I have always been fascinated also by cross-cultural influences, looking back through history at how civilizations have influenced and changed each other. Cuisine and culture have been changed and influenced along the way, for better or worse.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?

Hospitality Management Professor Lisa Clark taught me that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Use them to your advantage to better yourself and your team

Chef Jeremy Peters taught me to always strive to be the best.

Chef Brian Hathenbruck taught me to take your best and make it better.

Chef Stephanie Rosati always held me to a higher standard because she knew I wanted to be on a higher level.

Chef Amanda Gargano taught me to take everything you have learned and turn it on its head. Always try new ingredients and methods, and experiment with combining cuisines.

Chef Tracey Heine taught me to take pride in my work: prepping, cooking, cleaning, etc.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

My immediate plans are to work hard to advance at Disney. I am working toward a chef position currently, along with other advancements in the future.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to be a chef first and foremost, in title, certification, etc. Eventually, I want to open my own restaurant.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud that I can say I found my passion and get to live and breathe it every day. A lot of people can’t say and do that, which is sad.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Nobody gets in to the restaurant/food service business because it is easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. You are here for a reason, so don’t squander it. Channel your passion and drive, and put in the work. You get what you put into it, if not more so.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

There is a quote painted in the Cypress Bistro at the Anaheim Campus: “Life is too short for fake butter, fake sugar, and fake people.”

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