I believe the degree helped me get the job. It was amazing to be in the program and learn from experienced chefs.
The key to success for students interested in a culinary or hospitality career?
“You have to love it,” said Carmen Alvarado, a graduate of Lane’s culinary program. “You have to love to cook. Cooking is my life. I love it. That’s why I say if you don’t enjoy the cooking, you will not make it. You need to be happy in your job.”
A native of Costa Rica, Carmen moved to Eugene with her husband and spoke no English. She quickly enrolled first in Lane’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Her ESL teachers were encouraging and within a year, she felt ready to start in a degree program and chose to follow her passion for cooking.
“It was difficult when I started the program because I was still learning English,” she said. “Chef would ask me to bring him a four-inch knife and he would have to have to show me what it was. These were all new words I did not know yet. In my first term, I thought I would fail but they helped me. They wanted me to succeed and my skills were strong.”
After completing the program, she worked part-time at Lane Community College and other restaurant kitchens where she gained experience before one of her former Lane instructors encouraged her to apply for a full-time position at the University of Oregon.
She said she didn’t think she did well in the interview and believes that her Lane culinary degree gave her an edge for the position because she later learned the hiring manager valued culinary education.
“I believe the degree helped me get the job,” she said. “It was amazing to be in the program and learn from experienced chefs. Before, I knew how to cook for my family, but I learned about batch cooking and how to use equipment that I had never around before. I’m very strong in my skills and what I know.”
She now hones her cooking skills in her position at the University of Oregon prepping food for six different food venues on the campus. There is still one personal taste preference that the Lane culinary program and even her current supervisor can’t quite shake out.
“I remember when I was cooking at LCC in my classes and Chef would taste my dish, he’d tell me, ‘Needs more salt,’” she said and laughed. “Now, when I cook something and I ask my boss or a coworker to taste, they still say, ‘Needs more salt.’ I still don't like to use a lot of salt!"