Rhianon Sherry heads to career from food-centered family

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Rhianon Sherry, salutatorian of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo class of 2014, listens to the valedictory.

BERNE — As she and her teammates garnered first place in a statewide hospitality management competition, Berne-Knox-Westerlo student Rhianon Sherry unknowingly got her first job.

One of the judges of the New York State Restaurant Association’s ProStart culinary competition for high school students was Donna Purnomo, one of the owners of Yono’s, an upscale Indonesian-influenced restaurant in Albany.

In one of her answers for the competition, Sherry told Purnomo her favorite restaurant was Moe’s.

“Because they were very friendly there and it was quick service, and they really care about their customers,” Sherry said of her answer.

During her team’s presentation, Sherry continued the speech she had memorized when a teammate had trouble with her own lines.

Purnomo emailed Sherry’s teacher the next day, writing that she wanted the reserved 17-year-old to work at her restaurant.

Sherry and Purnomo continued to exchange emails and Purnomo proofread her salutatory address for the BKW graduation ceremony last month.

“She’s been like a mother,” said Sherry, who will start her first job as a food runner at Yono’s, later training to be a hostess. In the fall, she will study hotel and restaurant management at Schenectady County Community College. She took similar classes with her ProStart teammates at the Board Of Cooperative Educational Services Capital Region Career and Technical School in Schoharie.

On graduation day, the square top of Rhianon’s mortarboard was covered with shimmering blue beads and white letters. It read, “Class of 2014\Rhianon\Thanks Mom and Dad.”

“My parents have always supported me and motivated me and helped me,” said Rhianon. “If I got a bad grade, they would tell me it’s okay, to just try harder next time.” She said in an email clarifying her answers that her parents have given her unconditional love and the knowledge she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Cooking and gardening are a family project for Sherry. Her mother taught her how to cook and care for their plants. Her father tends the grill. They grow fresh fruits and vegetables from a large garden and collect eggs from chickens at home.

Originally, Sherry had aspirations to be a professional chef. She likes to work with her hands, says she learns by listening. She discovered through school that she wanted to be a manager. “Votech has inspired me,” Sherry said.

“I like working in a group,” said Sherry. “I’m very organized, so I like to organize things and plan things out…The cooking part made me very anxious and stressed out.”

Sherry was part of a team from the Schoharie campus of the Capital Region Career & Technical School that won first prize for hospitality management with its restaurant concept, called “Maison Vert.”

“I think they enjoyed that everything was from the farm to the table,” Sherry said of the competition’s judges. “We had a greenhouse inside the restaurant, and we had a separate one where people could purchase produce, so they could have a healthy, beneficial lifestyle.”

She said she wouldn’t rule out eventually owning her own restaurant.

“I definitely like casual, full service,” Sherry said. “I would want it to be a family-friendly atmosphere. I’m not sure what specific types of food I would want but definitely fresh ingredients.”

Sherry wants to be with her family as they move to Tennessee, where she said she would like to work at a hotel.

“We’re interested in living on the lake, and the weather’s really awesome down there, too,” Sherry said of Tennessee. “You can have a garden down there all year long.”

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