Chef Mariela Magoni

Chef Mariela Magoni

First impressions are everything. The culinary industry is not like what you see on TV. You need to be humble and be professional. Chef Mariela Magoni , Adjunct Faculty , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

When I was four years old, my dad started asking me to make breakfast for him. He would put a stool on the floor and basically leave the rest up to me. This is truly where my passion started. I always knew I wanted to be a chef, however, after high school I went to another school to pursue my bachelors in public relations. I soon realized after a few years that I needed to go back to my original dream. My best friend started attending The Art Institute of California—San Diego and pushed me to visit the campus. I immediately enrolled, pursued my degree in culinary arts and am proud to be an alumni. 

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

In class, I always try to give students an example of what happens in the industry so they are prepared and not surprised. I try to give students as much feedback as possible, along with examples of why they are learning different material. The industry is extremely fast paced, so I think of the school as a nice safe haven for learning.  

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

In my labs, students have a certain amount of time to present their plates. My expectation is to see a plated presentation like you are serving me at a restaurant. I think it is imperative for students to start learning plating early because it not only develops their professionalism, but also sparks their creativity, which can get lost in school. My philosophy, ‘You eat with your eyes, so if it doesn’t look good, people assume that it doesn’t taste good.’ 

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

A kitchen is a team atmosphere—you are never alone. Although the professional kitchens in school are quite large, in the industry you are always shoulder to shoulder with people. Therefore, you have to learn how to work with every personality. In my classes I often cook with students versus sitting and watching to model this behavior. I try to perform as many demos as possible to model the correct techniques. 

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

First impressions are everything. The culinary industry is not like what you see on TV. You need to be humble and be professional. 

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I am half Italian and half Mexican. My father was born and raised in Italy and I was lucky enough to visit Northern Italy—Morbegno—every summer and I learned how to cook with my grandmother. One of my favorite dishes that I make is risotto, in every style and flavor.