A Recipe for Success: RCC Fall Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair Brings RCC Alum Full Circle 

Fall Culinary arts academy.

When DeVonn Ward walked into the Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair at Riverside City College last year, little did he know it would lead him to his culinary success today.

Ward’s attendance connected him to his current employer, Levy Restaurants, who hired Ward as a Culinary Supervisor for Big Bear Mountain Resorts — one of the hundreds of restaurants the Chicago-based company oversees.

“My experience last year at the job fair from a student’s perspective, I was a bit overwhelmed,” admits Ward about the event. The annual RCC Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair invites employers to meet and network with culinary arts students and recruit potential employees.

This year, Ward attended the RCC Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair from the other side of the table as an employer recruiting with Levy Restaurants.

“We came in wanting culinary talent and as much of it as we could get,” Ward explained about attending this year’s event.

“We knew the big names and competition we were up against as far as reaching into that talent pool; we wanted an upfront and personal interaction with the students.”

Some of those big local names included Pala Casino, Pechanga Resort Casino, Soboba Casino Resort, Disneyland, Mission Inn, Marriott Riverside at the Convention Center, and Porto’s Bakery & Café, to name a few.

“We wanted to inform the students of the benefits that Levy Restaurants could offer and the benefits of the partners that Levy works with to provide the students with more knowledge and information about the company,” continues Ward.

Once students land a gig at Levy Restaurants, Ward makes it clear the training isn’t over. Rather, the work is elevated to another level, as students in the field get the opportunity to blend their background at RCC with new skills, experiences, and practice their craft in a fast-paced environment. Nearly three million guests visit Big Bear every year, many of whom come through to dine at the Big Bear Mountain Resorts restaurants.

“[It] gets kicked up into another gear with the numbers we feed and provide service to the masses,” says Ward. “We wanted to communicate to the students that we could elevate and raise [their] skills to higher expectations.”

Dawn Martin, Culinary Specialist at Riverside City College, says students at RCC are well prepared with a core foundation in culinary thanks to their dynamic on-campus restaurant. Students receive real-world experience working in the service-based environment from the convenience of the RCC campus.

“We are a hands-on facility and not all lecture based,” notes Martin. The Culinary Specialist explains that students take away essential skills from the program, including knowledge for all aspects of running a restaurant. Instructors cover customer service, point-of-sales, serving tables, washing dishes, knife skills, meat fabrication, proper cooking methods, basic baking, line cooking, and breakfast cooking.

Food service jobs are finally climbing back to pre-pandemic numbers. According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2022, the culinary and restaurant industry accounted for about 10 percent of employment throughout California with a projected growth of 12.5 percent by 2030.

“We have a job placement coordinator (Meriel Anderson-McDade) that works with our current and former students looking for work,” continues Martin. “She will help them with their resumes and if the students want, she will set up a mock interview to help them.”

Connections to the local industry are vital for students looking to get their foot in the door to a successful culinary career. Especially with events like the Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair, as it offers direct access for students to cook up these valuable connections with employers and peers alike.

“From my perspective, students have chosen to commit their time and energy to what and where they want to prosper,” shares Ward.

“If the schools can help get students closer to that end goal or open pathways the students might not have had otherwise, then those pathways or connections should be taken advantage of.”

And this rings especially true for students like Ward, who uncovered career success thanks to the RCC Culinary Arts Academy Job Fair.

“Students and employers never know who or what company is coming with this opportunity.”

You can learn more about RCC’s Culinary Arts Academy by visiting their web page.