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A woman and a man stand smiling in a culinary kitchen wearing culinary uniforms

Pima's Hospitality Program Prepares the Next Generation of Culinary Professionals

Our Hospitality program and Center of Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism are designed to help students gain career skills.

Tucson is a UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy for good reason. From taco stands to food trucks to fine dining restaurants, Tucson’s diverse culinary scene is a draw for locals and tourists alike.

To support the growing hospitality industry, Pima is training the next generation of hospitality professionals through our Hospitality Leadership associate degree and certificates in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, culinary fundamentals and hotel and restaurant management.

Two students stand smiling in a culinary kitchen

Also designed to support Tucson’s important hospitality and tourism industry is Pima’s Center of Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism, which works with industry partners to prepare students for today’s challenges and opportunities.

Combining classroom work with hands-on experiences, Pima’s students are prepared to handle a wide-range of responsibilities and are in-demand by local employers.

The program is using its first Title V grant “Pathways to Hospitality,” a $2.7 million award, to create state-of-the-art facilities featuring three commercial kitchens, a recommissioned grill, a new restaurant and bistro and hotel suite learning labs.

Pima student Sammy Gonzalez and lab specialist Niria Egurrola know the benefits of the College’s hospitality program and professional resources first hand. As part of the program, they are preparing for high-paying and flexible careers in culinary arts.

Versatile Training for All Career Paths

Sammy Gonzalez came to Pima to develop the skills needed to open a Puerto Rican food truck in Tucson.

“The program is amazing. I've been cooking for 15 years, but through this program, I've learned about sanitation and proper cutting techniques and how the industry works as a whole,” said Gonzalez.

She also shared that the program’s focus on the financial aspects of the hospitality industry have been helpful and rewarding.

“The program teaches you how to deal with people. They teach you how to deal with the industry,” shared Gonzalez.

People taste the passion and love that is coming through your food ~ Sammy Gonzalez

“I've learned a lot about finance and socializing with others, especially in this industry because you have to be courteous and compassionate to the people that are around you in order to make you a successful business.”

For Gonzalez, her love for cooking and building community around food comes from her mother.

“My mother was the one that raised me and taught me everything about cooking. Like even what I’m planning for my food truck is all my mother's recipes,” shared Gonzalez.

“People taste the passion and love that is coming through your food,” she continued.

Connections With Local Employers and Industry Partners

Niria Egurrola also found her professional hospitality footing during her time at the College.

Egurrola works as the lab specialist in Pima’s hospitality program. As the lab specialist, Egurrola makes sure the kitchen is operating for students and that instructors have everything they need to run their classes successfully.

A man pulls a roast from the oven of the culinary kitchen

“Cooking's always been a passion and something I've always done. And at my high school, there weren't any home-ec or culinary courses available,” said Egurrola.

“[At Pima,] I definitely learned all of the basics and everything I’ve needed to learn to go into a restaurant,” she continued.

Egurrola also shared the excellent team of chefs and industry professionals at Pima’s hospitality program and Center of Excellence does everything they can to ensure students are well-rounded leaders in the industry.

“The program works with a lot of local chefs in town just to make sure we're giving everyone the best we can give them” Egurrola said.

“So it's really fun. If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, you're going to love it” she continued.

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