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The Greater Daytona Region is Serving Up Talent

Daytona State College is developing skilled culinary professionals. 

By Teree Caruthers on June 7, 2022

Abigail Killian prepares food in the kitchen at the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management on the Daytona State College campus in the Greater Daytona Region. ©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht
Nathan Lambrecht

A prize feather in the Greater Daytona region’s workforce development cap is Daytona State College (DSC), which plays a pivotal role in keeping a pipeline of talent flowing to some of the region’s top industries.

For example, for over 15 years, DSC’s Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management has churned out highly skilled professionals in hotel management, food and beverage services and even casino management.

“Hospitality is the No. 1 employer in Volusia County, and it’s the No. 1 employer in Florida, so there was a need for a program like this,” says chef Costa Magoulas, dean of the Mori Hosseini College. “When it started, there weren’t any schools really pushing as hard for this kind of curriculum, so we were able to start our hospitality school and culinary school pastry program and turn it into a full program.”

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Culinary Masterpiece

The program started in a small kitchen in a local elementary school with just 12 students. It has since grown to include a 67,000-square-foot building equipped with commercial kitchens, a full-scale hotel lobby that Magoulas says rivals “the lobby of any hotel in Miami,” a full-service restaurant/cafe staffed by students and a new commercial brewery to teach future brewmasters and sommeliers.

“Our students are learning in real-world kitchens. We have restaurants from all over the county and the state visit us to look at our facility and get ideas on how to design their kitchens. Our lab kitchen is also unique in that the classroom is inside the lab. There is no separate lecture classroom, so our students can work in the kitchen or at their desk and get supervision all in one space. You don’t see that at typical culinary schools,” Magoulas says. “And all our instructors are from the industry, and they all have a master’s degree in hospitality.”

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Nathan Lambrecht

Cooking Up A Skilled Workforce

Magoulas says the college works closely with a business advisory committee to assess the real-time needs of the industry.

“We meet with our advisory committee four times a year, and each time we meet, the first thing we do is ask what we can do to improve our program. They said, ‘We need customer service,’ so we wrote a book on customer service,” he says. “They asked us to add casino management to the curriculum because we have gambling in the state, so we hired an instructor who was a pit boss in Las Vegas. We recognized how important beverage service is in a restaurant, so we started a class called Introduction to Beer and Wine and even built a $1.2 million brewery lab.”

Because of the school’s rigorous training, graduates of the program are in high demand.

“There’s such a demand for good people. Sometimes, we’ve had to fight to keep students enrolled because they’re offered jobs before they even graduate. If we had 2,000 students tomorrow, I could get them all a job,” Magoulas says. “We’ve had students who have won awards, who now are head chefs and some who own their own restaurants.”

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Nathan Lambrecht

Recipe for Success

One example is Jose Cifuentes, franchise operator of Jimmy Hula’s restaurants — a surf-themed regional chain specializing in Hawaiian cuisine — in Ormond Beach and Port Orange. Cifuentes and his wife, Vanessa, both studied at the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management. Cifuentes credits the college for much of his success.

“One of the roles DSC’s culinary program played in my success was the education I received on how important it is to learn every aspect of the restaurant business,” Cifuentes says. “They taught me menu breakdown, menu design, sanitation, different cuisines, sauces breakdown, buffet setups, front-of-house responsibilities, back-of-the-house responsibilities, beer education, wine pairings, among other things. Our instructors have a wide range of knowledge and experience.”

Cifuentes says some of the greatest benefits to attending DSC are the small class sizes and hands-on experience.

“One main advantage the college offers students is learning in state-of-the-art kitchen classrooms,” he says. “I was very impressed with the equipment we were able to use for our lessons. I was always excited to go to class and learn a different technique.”

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