The Best-Laid Plans…
Victoria Nodarse knew from a very young age that she wanted to own a restaurant. So, with her family’s encouragement, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Barry University in Miami Shores, FL and a master’s in hospitality management from Florida International University with that goal in mind. What specifically drew her to FIU was the restaurant development course. “During my master’s, I decided to apply for a culinary internship at the Hotel Victor’s restaurant, Vix,” explains Victoria, now co-owner of Spice Galore. “It was my first time in a professional kitchen. From my studies, I had the theory of a restaurant down pat, but I didn’t know the kitchen side. I needed to learn how a kitchen worked and how to cook for a restaurant.”
Victoria talked with her mentor at FIU, Chef-Instructor Mike Moran ’83, who said, “If you really want to learn how to cook, go to my alma mater, The Culinary Institute of America.” So began her research. “I didn’t need the associate degree, so the Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate Program seemed tailor fit,” says Victoria. “The CIA is the best culinary college in the world; plus, the program is set in the Napa Valley. It was a no-brainer, and it turned out to be the best decision of my life. I got to move to California and cook every day. It was a time for me to experience something different while learning new skills.”
Some highlights of her time at the CIA at Greystone include the Worlds of Flavor: The Rise of Asia conference, field trips to San Francisco, and the chef-instructors. “They very masterly and gently impart to the students the importance of discipline, sanitation, respect for the food, respect for the profession, and the overall artistry and personal expression that comprise the culinary arts,” she recalls. “It’s all essential in understanding the discipline of the kitchen and conveying the importance of having pride in your craft. I learned it and loved it!”
After graduation, Victoria returned home to Miami and numerous opportunities. “The only reason I am where I am today is because of my ACAP certificate,” she says. “Every time I mention the CIA, a door opens.” Victoria spent five years giving back as an instructor helping budding culinarians grow at Miami Dade College. A chance encounter at one of the college’s events set Victoria on a new and exciting path. A student volunteer mentioned opening up a store specializing in spices, an idea that greatly appealed to Victoria. A few months later, they launched Spice Galore online. The response was so strong that they decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop in South Miami.
After several successful years in business, Victoria was ready for a change. “I was offered a wonderful opportunity to join Chef Allen’s Consulting, a boutique restaurant and hospitality consulting firm established in 2000 by Allen Susser,” says Victoria. “I’m working on a wide array of projects ranging from local restaurants in Miami to the Emerald Estate, a 30-acre organic bean to bar single estate chocolate maker in St. Lucia. I love my job and there is never a dull moment!”
While Victoria’s childhood dream of opening a restaurant may have fallen by the wayside, she now happily offers her talent and creativity to the consulting firm’s many clients and projects. “Always be open to expanding your horizons,” she advises. “And keep learning. It gives you the opportunity to move into other areas of the culinary world.”