Alumni News

November 2003  







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FORMER STUDENT RETURNS TO MISSION COLLEGE AS CATERING COORDINATOR

Arturo Luna had two educations at Mission College. One led to a degree; the other to a career.

Luna attended Mission College from 1996-2000, earning enough credits for a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. At one time, Luna hoped his studies would land him a career in computer science. But during those years, Luna was also a student-worker, handling the cashbox in the cafeteria. He often found himself peering over his shoulder at the activity in the kitchen.


Arturo Luna, right, discusses catering arrangements with culinary arts instructor Jesus Sanchez.

"I would look back and see the students doing all this cooking," he recalled. "I started asking them what they were doing until one day Chef (Rudy Garcia) said, ‘Come back here and learn something.’ "

And learn "something," he did. Luna took only one culinary arts class in his four years at Mission. But as a student worker, he learned enough in the kitchen from chefs Garcia and Louis Zandalasini and instructor Jesus Sanchez, to be given responsibility for setting up and carrying out catering events.

When he started giving thought to transferring to a university, a defining event occurred. Until then, "Culinary was just a hobby of mine," he said. But in 2000, when a student dropped out of a Las Vegas competition at the last minute, Chef Garcia recruited Luna as a replacement. Luna had two days to prepare, compared to the months of preparation by other participants. To his surprise, Luna (who had secretly hoped he would earn an honorable mention) won a bronze medal.

"I couldn’t believe it," he said. "I was being judged by master chefs from all over the country. That was the greatest moment I had at Mission College."

Culinary arts moved to the forefront of his plans and, with recommendations from Garcia and other Mission College staff, Luna was admitted to the Miami campus of Johnson and Wales University, one of the most prestigious culinary arts schools in the nation. Luna earned a B.S. degree in Hotel Management/Hospitality from J&W earlier this year.

Now, Luna is back at Mission College as the newly hired Catering Events Coordinator. One of his primary responsibilities will be to market the college’s catering services to the public and outside groups. The department has already catered a number of high-profile events sponsored by the Mission College Foundation, as well as some private affairs. But the department wants to expand these services to give students wider experience with special events, and to bring private revenue to the college.

"I’d like to have at least one major event a week," said Luna. "Once businesses and people in the community see what we’re capable of, I think they’ll keep coming back. My job will be to make sure it all goes right and that the customer is happy."

So Luna – who once brought home a bronze medal for Mission College – is now going for the gold.


– BY EDUARDO PARDO  /  Photos: Lydia Chung