SAN BERNARDINO, CA- Good food and fine entertainment always seem to go well together, especially for San Bernardino Valley College student William Lacey, 26, of Highland.
This master of the arts is not quite sure which one will win out in the end?—?his standout vocals or culinary prowess. Eventually, he would like to combine them at his own restaurant where he can train chefs to prepare Cajun cuisine, and maybe indulge his operatic side every now and again.
Lacey is a natural classical aficionado. He has had three years of classical vocal training at SBVC, and credits his instructors for keeping him on track with his career and education.
A private voice class helped Lacey hone his skill, and one day after choir, he sang the national anthem for SBVC Music Department Chair Matie Manning Scully.
“She looked at me and said ‘Kiddo, you’ve got a great voice. I would love to work with you.’ It started from there.”
Lacey also performs regularly with choreographer Maura Townsend and her Project21Dance Company. During Black History Month, he sang his richly-layered baritone rendition of Paul Robeson’s “Ol’ Man River” as part of Townsend’s “Hope Through the Struggle” event held at San Bernardino Valley College.
He said that Ms. Townsend, an adjunct professor at the college, has also been instrumental in giving him a creative venue for his artistic side.
“From that point, we kind of hit the ground running. She asked me to join her company, and I continue to do pieces with her dancers,” he said.
Lacey grew up in the city of Highland, where his grandmother was his best critic at church and home. It’s also where he, his mother and grandmother would often sing gospel and cook large family meals together. When his grandmother passed away, it was the toughest time of his life. He barely spoke complete sentences throughout junior high school.
In 2018, Lacey is on track to graduate with an A.S. in Restaurant Management and an A.S. in Business Administration. He credits SBVC with giving him the tools to move forward with confidence.
Over the past four years, he has worked as Chef De Partie at Forest Home, Inc., where he navigates a fast-paced food environment, oversees utility workers, and handles about one million meals per year. In the past, he has interned at the Hilton Hotel and the Sun Room Cafe as a line cook.
When he first started at SBVC, his goal was culinary arts, but he soon fell in love with opera in his choir class elective. Without any prior formal training, developing his operatic side came with a learning curve. It took about two months for his voice to readjust to a classical tone.
“I’m connected to it, I listen closely to the detail, the emotion in their voices because I understand it now,” he said.
In his day job, he prepares breakfast, lunch, and dinner with finesse, and is also known as “the singing chef.” It’s an unexpected niche that often draws an encore.
“I’ll sing a song about halfway through the meal. If the people like it, they say, ‘Oh, can you sing another song before we leave?’ It works, I get to sing opera to an audience that actually enjoys it.”