Imagine a career where your office is a kitchen.
Every day, that’s precisely where Maria Gutierrez goes – into her grill station “office” in one of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s restaurants.
“It was definitely a wonderful experience coming to OCCI. I learned everything I needed to work in a restaurant,” Maria said.
Maria grew up in a family who cooked together. The youngest of four children, she remembers at age 4 being in the kitchen helping her grandma and her mom. They encouraged her every day, as did her step-father. He served up an idea and the encouragement she needed to imagine a career in the culinary industry.
“He’d tell me, ‘You could be one of those chefs on a cruise ship,” she said.
Scholarships and tuition waiver helped
She believed and worked hard in high school, graduating with an overall GPA above 3.75. That high GPA made her eligible for a partial tuition waiver to the Culinary Institute. With that help she enrolled at Southwestern, moved into student housing and even sought a part-time job at Bandon Dunes, knowing she had to study, pay bills and loans, and be responsible.
Hard work, focus and dedication paid off. Maria moved to top of her OCCI class, and Executive Chef Don McCradic at Bandon Dunes noticed her.
“Bandon Dunes and OCCI’s partnership has been a success story from the beginning and Maria’s passion for the industry has helped her excel during the externship program,” said Chef McCradic. “Our team is very proud she was the first recipient of the scholarship. I look forward to seeing where her accomplishments take her.”
Chef McCradic challenged Maria, and more he’s helped her gain the confidence needed in a competitive industry.
“Chef is always watching. He’s great,” she said. “He’s encouraging. He lets you know you’re doing well.”
Just like her family.
Next step: Job at Oregon’s premier golf resort
Maria’s long-term goal is to gain a managerial position as a Sous Chef. She initially imagined staying at Bandon Dunes for another two years and has four restaurant areas to choose from – The Gallery, Pacific Grill, McKee’s Pub and Trails End. She said, now, she could envision staying longer. And, she’s thinking about the possibilities of not just being a chef at the premier resort in Bandon, but perhaps working at management company Kemper Sports’ other locations around the country.
“There’s so much opportunity, if you try your hardest and never settle for mediocrity,” Maria said. “If you want to go to culinary school, you’ve got to be all in and committed.”
Being “all in” is what it takes to earn the opportunity to apply for and win a Keiser Scholarship for Culinary Excellence at Southwestern.