10 to watch: Vivian Ray

Published 1:36 am Saturday, January 3, 2015

Vivian Ray

Vivian Ray is cooking up something unique at Livingstone College.

Ray, a highly trained chef with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, was hired to head up Livingstone’s hospitality management and culinary arts program.

Not only does she lead the program, but she developed its curriculum, as well.

“My platform that I always teach my classes from is healthy concepts,” she said. “I feel like it’s my baby.”

The program was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in May 2012, and has already attracted more than 100 students.

The program is now permanently housed in the old Holiday Inn on Jake Alexander Boulevard.

According to Ray, Livingstone is the only historically black college with a four-year bachelor of arts program in hospitality management, two-year culinary arts program and one-year certificate.

Ray was born and raised in Chicago and has degrees in restaurant management and culinary arts. She has her master’s degree from North Carolina A&T University in nutrition and food product development. Ray will receive her doctorate degree in March.

She said that very few chefs have their doctorate degrees, which will give her – and Livingstone – a special advantage.

Ray worked at Red Lobster, country clubs, catering businesses and hotels for a number of years, as well as in higher education positions at Purdue University and the University of Central Florida.

She’s studied at La Varenne in France and did a three-year apprenticeship in New Orleans, which she refers to as the “cooking capital of the world.” New Orleans is where she developed an affinity for Creole and Cajun cooking.

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Job title: Director of Livingstone College’s hospitality management and culinary arts program

Age: 58

Address: Kannapolis

If you won $1 million in the lottery, what would you do? “I would probably take some students to Europe and do a culinary tour of the world.”

Favorite hobby: Dancing – Ray is a Chicago Stepper, which is a particular kind of dance — and cooking

Who should play you in a movie? Halle Berry

What would you choose for your last meal? I would choose a red fish burgundy with a grit cake and a medley of Brussels sprouts and sautéed bacon, shallots and cranberries

Who will you watch in 2015? “I will be watching my boss (Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, president of Livingstone College). He is a visionary.”

Biggest challenge in 2015: To “create a nationally recognized brand” with a reputation for quality graduates and completing her doctorate degree in March.

Biggest hope for 2015: Ray hopes to have 350 students enrolled in Livingstone’s hospitality management and culinary arts program by the end of 2015. She also wants to create a healthier environment in local middle schools.

Reaction to making the list “I was excited. I didn’t realize anyone recognized that I was there at Livingstone.”