With his 17 students watching, William Floyd High School teacher Rich Daly revved up his chain saw Tuesday afternoon and pierced through a 300-pound block of ice. As chunks dropped to the floor, the block quickly transformed into a large sea horse that only became more detailed with each swipe of Daly’s power tools.
“You start with a rectangular block of ice and it could become anything,” said Daly, 33, of Mastic Beach.
After 10 years of teaching the home and careers course at William Floyd Middle School, Daly was tapped by district officials to run the new culinary arts program in the high school that launched this past fall.
He’s not your average teacher, though. For more than a decade, the Johnson and Wales University graduate has been creating ice sculptures for catering affairs through his business, Ice Melodies, and competing professionally as an ice carver. He is a national speed carving champion, and in October, he plans to crush the Guinness World Record for “Fastest Ice Carver.”
The current record was set in 2002 by Rich Bubin, of Pennsylvania, who carved 61 ice blocks in 4 hours, 22 minutes and 55 seconds, according to Ken Diederic, executive director of the National Ice Carving Association.
Daly is aiming to carve 75 different ice sculptures in four hours or less. If he can hit this goal, he said, “I will have that record forever.”
The popular teacher has plenty of support from his students.
“He can do it,” said junior Kaitlyn Deliver, 16, of Mastic Beach. “We’re going to be so proud of him when he does.”
Deliver’s uncle, who works as a sous chef at a country club, inspired her to sign up for the two-year culinary arts program through which students can earn seven college credits.
More than 40 students have registered for next year’s program, and more are on a waiting list, according to Gordon Brosdal, the district’s assistant superintendent for secondary Instruction and Administration. The district also launched two-year cosmetology and carpentry programs this past year and will be adding automotive and medical assistant programs in September.
By hosting these courses at the high school, Brosdal said the district spends far less than what it would cost to send students to Suffolk BOCES, and students can benefit socially by being with their peers for the full school day.
“We are giving kids the skills to do what they want,” Brosdal said. “College doesn’t always guarantee you a job.”
Daly’s students learn how to prepare stocks, sauces and various dishes, and also cater events at the high school including an upcoming dinner for distinguished alumni. During their senior year, they’ll be expected to create their own ice sculpture.
“They are going to get their own 300-pound block of ice .?.?. use the chain saws and really go to town on it,” he said.
Deliver admitted she was “nervous” about the ice-carving assignment that awaits her, but added, “Maybe when we’re older, we can beat his [Daly’s] world record.”