Editor's Note: Newsday.com is catching up with former Long Island prom kings and queens to reflect on being named royalty and see what they're up to now. If you're a former Long Island high school prom king or queen and would like to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
During his time at Islip High School, Henry Wallace explored many of his interests: He painted the sets for the school's theatrical productions, led a team-building club, and even took a foods course with his buddy so they could "hang out and eat."
And that's when he discovered his passion for cooking.
“I realized it was cool," Wallace said. "I had a knack for this, and it was something I wanted to do.”
Wallace would ultimately venture on a culinary career path. But before he left his stomping grounds in 1996, he snatched three royal titles: Sophomore year homecoming court, junior prom king and senior prom king.
“I was honestly a little surprised,” he said. “I wasn’t in one clique in high school; I was nice and friendly to all groups. I had one or two friends in each group across the board, which helped me get nominated and win.”
Wallace -- who went by Hank back then -- won these three titles alongside his classmate Julie Hereth each time.
“My mom was so happy,” he said. “She had a poster in the front room of the house that said ‘Triple Crown.’ ”
Wallace went on to take high school culinary classes at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Following graduation, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
Now, he is a chef and director of food and beverage at the Essex Culinary Resort and Spa in Essex Junction, Vermont.
The resort grows its own produce on the property and boasts a fine-dining restaurant with an open kitchen.
As a New York boy, born and raised, Wallace said this was quite a change of scene. But he's come full-circle since his days in culinary class.
“I teach my staff, instruction and training, so they’re better chefs and servers," he said.
If Wallace could go back in time, he’d tell himself to keep one thing in mind.
“Part of it’s helped me to get to where I am -- working so hard -- but maybe not to work so hard,” he said. “Work isn’t everything. A good work ethic is good, but make sure you pay attention to your friends and family.”