Southwestern hosts Community Resource Fair

Southwestern hosts Community Resource Fair

Coos Bay, OR – On Wednesday, September 21 and Friday, September 23, 2022, Southwestern Oregon Community College will host a Community Resource Fair from 11am-2pm in Empire Hall, on the Coos Campus (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay). The goal of this fair is to help people from all walks of life find the benefits that are most useful to their unique circumstances. Stop by and see what the community of Coos Bay has to offer. 

Many helping organizations will be in attendance, such as The SAFE project and Oregon Department of Human Service, as well as local grocery stores, and healthcare organizations. On both days of the fair, Coos Health and Wellness will be offering COVID-19 vaccinations, HIV alliance will be doing free STI screenings. All attendees will be entered into a raffle with a chance to win prizes valued up to $50. This is a free, family friendly event that is open to the public. 

For more information, contact Lindsey Bellefeuille, benefitsnavigator@socc.edu, 541-888-7462.

Meet Detective Reyes-Mendoza…

Meet Detective Reyes-Mendoza…

Well, not yet. Police work is Gold Beach man’s dream.

If you visit the Curry Campus in Brookings, you just might meet Augusto Reyes-Mendoza. He is concentrating on his education at the Curry Campus to achieve his Associate of Applied Science degree. From here, he plans to enter the Criminal Justice program at Western Oregon University. “After I’m a police officer and I get some experience, I’d like to become a detective. You need a college education for that,” says Augusto.

How did his interest in this career path begin? At an aquarium in California of all places. “I was about 12. We were coming out of the aquarium and we saw a police office trying to speak with someone who clearly didn’t speak English. The officer didn’t know Spanish. He was trying, but not succeeding. I decided then and there that I wanted to be able to help people in situations like that. I’m bilingual.” To get a first-hand view of police work Augusto has gone on ride-alongs with the Port Orford Police Department, and the Curry County Sheriff’s Department. “Ever since I was little I looked up to police officers.”

Born to immigrants who weren’t able to pursue an education beyond elementary school, Augusto’s parents have always encouraged him to go to college. They had to leave school young to work and help feed the family. Now his parents own La Casita De Oro Mexican Restaurant across from Gold Beach High School. “After school and homework I help out at the restaurant. It gives my parents a break so they can go have dinner before the evening rush.”

At 13, Augusto moved with his family from California to Gold Beach and admits that his English was not great. “High school was hard for me. My GPA was not great, but now that I’m in college my GPA is 3.5!” 

Augusto attributes some of his success to the support he’s received from Curry Campus staff and faculty, and his ability to reach out. “Everyone knows me here at the school.”

Augusto has some advice to share, “I was worried I would fail at college. And yes, it can be hard sometimes but there are resources and people to help you. Going to college has helped me better myself in general. Don’t be afraid . . . go for it!”

He received financial help, too. Augusto received a Southwestern Foundation scholarship to help pay for tuition and college expenses.

Get started on your future! Contact the Curry Campus at 541-813-1667.

Brownies anyone?

Brownies anyone?

Local brownie makers needed a place to produce their sweet treats. SWOCC’s Curry Campus provided the perfect start-up kitchen.

Michele and Steve Berlant were known throughout Curry County for their excellent brownies. They had been attracting loyal customers since 2013 to their Old Agness Store Bakery & Spice Shop. Then in 2017, they lost their kitchen space in Agness.

Their customer base was increasing and they had a growing online business. Scrambling, they relocated to Gold Beach, and the hunt was on for space. They needed a commercially-licensed kitchen. A friend suggested contacting the community college’s Curry Campus, knowing there was such a kitchen in the building. After a visit to the campus, the Berlants were back in business, using the college as a “business incubator” option.

“Having the kitchen at SWOCC to utilize allowed us to maintain pro­duction and GROW!” Michele said.

The original recipes for the brownies were Michele’s – and she has converted her already delicious reci­pes to gluten-free versions.

In early 2022, the couple was able to move their business to a permanent ‘brick & mortar’ space in Gold Beach. These days the Berlants ship their popu­lar brownies and ­blondies worldwide, and they have added hot sauces, and Oregon-produced cheese and meats. They also just hired a second employee.

“SWOCC has a fantastic facility. In fact, I would love to have their kitchen here at our new space. They were very accommodating. The support of the Curry Campus and the community here has been ­amazing,” said Steve.

For more information visit www.OldAgnessStore.com.


Your Food Future Starts Here!

Your Food Future Starts Here!

Why enter the culinary profession?

“The industry is thriving,” says Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI) Director and Executive Chef Randy Torres.

The hunt for employees is on. That means there’s great opportunity.

“People are getting degrees and following careers they are passionate about,” Torres said.

Aspiring chefs want the training to expand their career options and where they can go throughout the world. OCCI is well known in the Pacific Northwest as a boutique, intimate program.

OCCI is home to the world champion ice carver, Chef Chris Foltz. Chef Torres is a U.S. Culinary Olympian. He guides SWOCC’s culinary competition team, which has been tops in the nation since 2019.

“Our program gives students a foundation to learn. All of our teaching comes from classical training,” Torres said. “What you learn here in how to make a sauce will be the same thing you learn at the Culinary Institute of America.”

This program pushes students out of their comfort zone to learn more than just how to cook. The 18-month intensive includes specialized training, the opportunity to compete, and two terms of directed-practice work experience.

The culinary field is changing. Thanks to COVID, there’s been an explosion of creativity and innovation. People are hungry for connection with others through food.

There are many pathways for trained chefs, Torres says. Students use skills from culinary school to step into unique careers and dream jobs. Some work in high-end resorts. Others start their own restaurants or food trucks. Some even aspire to become food social media influencers.

“You can look throughout the country at culinary programs, and everyone will have impressive bios. All are valuable,” Torres said. “Our college stands out, because our instructors take personal responsibility to help each of students hone their skills and succeed.”

Meet the Team

Top Chef

Randy Torres, CEC, AAC

American Culinary Federation Cutting Edge Award winner 2021

Our culinary school’s Executive Director Randy Torres is more than a nationally known executive chef and former ACF Chef Educator of the Year. He’s a coach. A mentor. He’s a man who knows there are no limits to hard work, creativity and excelling in the craft and culture of food.

Torres travels the U.S. and internationally talking with other pros in the industry. He competes internationally and brings back innovative ideas and trends to blend into classes. And, then he builds community in the OCCI kitchens, ensuring small classes and individual focus.

“If a student walks in right now and says ‘Hey Chef, I want to practice my cuts. If I have the product, I’m going to say yes. I want to invest care and time into our students. I know it’s going to pay off, no matter how you slice it.”

The Cheerleader

Shawn Marie Warren

Eight years at the culinary school

Combine a foodie and an educator, and that’s Shawn Marie Warren. As the culinary program’s coordinator of operations, Shawn Marie is the behind-the-scenes person. She schedules equipment repairs, tracks fiscals and keeps track of event logistics. She loves the beautiful setting of the culinary school, which is a great start to every day. Shawn Marie’s top priority, though, is being there for students. She’s great with advising and helping problem-solve. Best of all, she’s a good listener. She makes sure no student ever feels alone.

“I love each and every student and their story. Their favorite dishes to make. Why they got into culinary, where they aspire to go in life and where they land. We are all immersed here in what we like to do.”

The Cultivator

Chelsea Gaudette

Baking and pastry arts specialist, with a focus on coastal food

Chef Gaudette grew up mainly in Coos Bay. She worked her way through culinary school at OCCI as a dual major and took off to explore the greater world. Eventually, she returned to Coos Bay to build her dream life. Now teaching in SWOCC’s nationally renowned culinary school, Gaudette also is developing 40 acres into a farm and event venue.

Cultivation is at the center of her work. Her goal is to get students into the garden. She manages OCCI’s gardens, with work study student help. She also takes her students out to visit farms. They learn to pick produce and harvest local foods throughout the year. In the kitchen, Gaudette teaches the art of food preservation, which helps a chef save money and supports local farms.

She loves watching her students’ progress. “They come in very quiet and unsure of themselves, and grow to have confidence and comfort in the kitchen.”

Teacher Mentor

Laura Williams, CEC

Specializes in culinary, with an

emphasis on fine dining

Chef Williams found her love for cooking at a young age while creating unique dishes for her mother. As a young adult she followed her culinary passion to OCCI where she graduated with honors. While working at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort she joined the USA Culinary Youth Team.  Williams competed alongside her team in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany and brought home gold and silver medals. Laura moved to Houston, Texas and began her tenure at The Houston Country Club, focusing on culinary competitions and certifications. Eventually, Williams came back to Oregon as an Executive Chef at Awbrey Glen Golf Club in Bend. The exciting opportunity to teach brought her back to Southwestern, this time as an instructor.

“What I’m hoping to teach my students above all else is that there is so much more to becoming a Chef than just learning how to cook. Each day they learn how to work as a team, but also how to become a strong leader. I hope that I’m able to inspire my students to strive to be the best they can be and never stop learning.”

The Artist

Chris Foltz, CII, CPIS

Yes, 2021 and 2022 World Ice Art team champion!

Chef Foltz brings 25 years of real-world culinary technique and training into his classes at Southwestern. This Certified Master Ice Sculptor also leads the college’s competitive ice carving adventures.

Foltz’s path to culinary instructor started in an inner-city. He was a young kid headed the wrong way and needing a job. A family hired him to work in their restaurant. He started work in the kitchen and fell in love with it. He found a safe place, a close family, and good food. Foltz stayed in Baltimore for culinary school, then traveled the world cooking excellent food in amazing places: Vegas’ Mon Ami Gabi, the Nassau Yacht Club in the Bahamas. He even studied culinary in Ireland.

“What I really enjoyed in the industry was the intensity of it. Now, I enjoy being able to prepare young people for that reality and give them good tools to use. Hopefully they get past the hardships and into what people love about the career. There’s so much fun, family, art, and just work. It’s a great world. It absorbs you and becomes your life.”



Interested in the culinary program?

Text or Call 541-240-8227


Want to come to public food events at OCCI? Watch our social media for announcements.

Southwestern to host Job Fair

Southwestern to host Job Fair

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College will host a Job Fair on Friday, September 30, 2022 from 11:00am-1:00pm in Empire Hall, on Southwestern’s Coos Campus, 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay. The event is free and open to the public.

We are excited to bring businesses to our Coos campus. Come check out the employers who are hiring. This will be a great opportunity for businesses to engage with students and community members.


Interested in participating as a hiring employer? We will have approximately 400 students living in our student housing that will have recently moved to the area. Businesses looking to hire part-time, full-time, or seasonal workers are encouraged to bring handouts, information, and applications. There is no registration fee to have a table at the fair; however, reservations are required and space is limited. Please save your space by contacting Kyle Croy at kcroy@socc.edu.


If you have questions or need more information please call Kyle Croy at 541-888-7316.


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