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Undergrad to full-time chef – a career in full swing

WSU Tri-Cities graduate Pauline Garza using degree in hospitality business management to accelerate career in culinary industry

By Maegan Murray

Pauline Garza, a 2016 graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities, has never wanted to be anything other than a chef.

Growing up, she said she remembers watching her mother and grandmother cook, hoping one day that she, too, would take hold of a spoon to whip up something that would captivate the senses.

“I just love food,” she said. “Becoming a chef has always been on my mind. I never really thought of doing anything else.”

Garza held a few jobs in the restaurant industry, and even job shadowed at Table 10, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in Las Vegas. She served as a full-time chef for the 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar in Richland, where she planned the menus, completed the shopping, researched meal ideas and prepared courses for restaurant customers. Now, she works at the front of the house at the LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen in Richland.

Garza said through her experience in earning a degree from WSU Tri-Cities in hospitality business management, many new doors have opened to her and her career in the food and beverage industry.

HMB program at Tri-Cities offered for the first time

Last year, Garza enrolled in the hospitality business management (HBM) degree program at WSU Tri-Cities, which was offered at the campus for the first time last fall. The WSU Faculty Senate voted to extend the bachelor of arts degree to the Carson College of Business on the Tri Cities campus March 12, 2015. The degree offers two majors: HBM and wine business management.

Garza said she originally started her degree at the WSU Pullman campus, but due to personal reasons, decided to move back home and put school on hold. She resumed school at WSU Tri-Cities and planned on getting a business degree since the campus didn’t offer the HBM degree. But now that she could specialize in HBM, she would have the opportunity to apply even more of what she learns in the classroom to her career.

“I was really worried when I left Pullman that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities, but now, I like to think that I’m in the Tri-Cities for a reason,” she said.

International studies further career potential

Shortly after graduation this spring, Garza set set off to participate in a WSU faculty-led food and wine study abroad program in Florence, Italy, where she studied for six weeks at the Florence University of the Arts.

The first three weeks were spent in a cooking class led by a reputable chef in the university’s Apicius International School of Hospitality, in addition to taking an Italian language class. The last half of the experience was spent learning about the production of wine, exploring the taste elements of wine, as well as how to pair wine with food through a variation of courses. Garza and her classmates also exchanged shifts at Ganzo, the student-led restaurant of Florence University of the Arts, providing them with a variety of real-world career experiences.

As a result of her success in the program, Garza was chosen to represent Washington State University in New York, where she will cook alongside executive chef Andrea Trapani as part of the James Beard Foundation’s Tutto Toscana Program this fall. Through the program, Garza will study food and wine management and will learn to prepare dishes for large events.

“The James Beard Foundation is one of America’s most well-known and respected culinary foundations,” she said. “My study abroad experience changed my life in such a beautiful way and has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Community benefits from HMB talent pool

Cindy Goulet (’90), owner of 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar, LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen and a graduate of WSU Pullman’s hotel and restaurant program, said she is thrilled about the WSU Tri-Cities campus offering the degree. She said it will allow her to find even more talented employees like Garza.

“I think it is really exciting,” she said. “We are always looking for talented people. We are so fortunate to have (Pauline) here.”

Garza said she is already putting what she has learned through her business classes at the university to good use. She said school helps keep her motivated and increases her potential to be a better chef and future business owner.

“I want to have my own bistro and influence others who are passionate about the food industry,” she said. “I want to make beautiful food for everybody. It’s all about getting that smile after the first bite from my customers.”