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Jennifer McKay, Hotel and Restaurant Management Major

“The chefs at the HCAT make sure you leave with all the knowledge they can give you.”

Jennifer McKay of Pasadena took her first class at AACC when she was a senior at Chesapeake High School in 2003. During that time, Jennifer saw an announcement for an upcoming open house at the Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute. She wasn’t aware that AACC had an HCAT Institute, but was delighted to learn that it did.

“I have always had an interest in cooking, so my parents and I went up there and I really liked it,” said Jennifer. “I thought it was the nicest kitchen I had ever been in. I was really impressed with all the equipment they had and the layout of it. I got to meet a couple of chefs and they had a lot of information for me and they were able to answer any question I had.”

After high school graduation, Jennifer knew where she wanted to go next.

“As soon as I saw the HCAT Institute I knew that this was it, this is where I was going to spend most of my time," said Jennifer. “I knew that if I went to AACC I would be getting a really good education because it is one of the number one community colleges.”

Growing up in a family that is passionate about cooking, Jennifer has been in the kitchen helping her mother and grandmother since she was a young girl. Now, when she is not in class, working, or at the gym, she is typically in the kitchen cooking for her family.

“My passion is baking, and my specialty is chocolate chip cookies,” said Jennifer. “I love to bake, but at the same time I like to try new things when cooking meals for my family. I like to be creative and try new recipes that I see, especially from the Food Network.”

So far Jennifer has taken Introduction to Food Preparation and Food Preparation 2 and really enjoyed both classes.

“I loved going there. It is a really comfortable environment. You don’t feel nervous or stressed out or anything. I really loved that you could always ask the chefs anything, even if they weren’t your teacher. They were always willing to help you. They were willing to come in before and after class. The chefs at the HCAT tell you what it is going to be like [in the real world] and they make sure you leave with all the knowledge they can give you.”

This year or next, Jennifer wants to get an internship at a hotel, restaurant, or catering company. She looks forward to graduating in two years with her associate of applied science degree and hopes to go into catering, party and wedding planning, or even own a restaurant one day.