Cooking up a career in project management
A Story about Luis Colon
The pathway for Luis’ career began before Future Chefs was formed. As a culinary student at Madison Park High School, he competed for, and won a scholarship to Newbury College from the Spinazzola Foundation. He was thrilled to find a place to nurture his love of culinary, but before long he was in limbo when the foundation closed its doors. He didn’t lose his way for long though, thanks to Toni Elka who, in Luis’ words “decided to cook up Future Chefs, and the rest is history.”
Luis was born and raised in Dorchester and was considering entering the Marines when he began thinking about his future. His high school sweetheart urged him to enter a cooking competition and soon his plans began to change. Once in Future Chefs and working closely with Toni, he was pushed to get out of his comfort zone and dream big. He appreciated how Toni and the staff were kind but tough and that Future Chefs provided a place where someone was listening, a home to come together.
Luis began to feel more confident and hone in on his strengths. Attending Future Chefs meetings and events helped him realize how much he loved talking to people, taking charge, and leading a project. He began to understand that his pathway to school and career might look different than he first thought and in Future Chefs he found mentors who took the time to get to know him and help him discover the right fit for him.
After high school, Luis transferred his scholarship to Bunker Hill Community College and began his work life as a supervisor at Starbucks, later working as an Assistant Manager at Tavolo Restaurant. He continued to cook, baking at Rosie’s, but started thinking about the Project Management field. After graduating Bunker Hill Community College he enrolled in University of Massachusetts in Boston, graduating with a B.S. in International Management. Building his resume, he became a MAC Provisioner at Granite Telecommunication, then a Solution Consultant at Fuze Inc. and is currently working at Building Engines as a Project Manager. He and his partner (that high school sweetheart!) recently bought a condo in East Boston. All the good things that can happen to a kid from Dorchester.
Luis says that what makes Future Chefs different is that it supports young people early in high school, and sticks with them after graduation. This timing is critical to helping a teen set goals and reach their potential. In the kitchen and front of the house, Luis practiced leadership skills, project planning, time management, and implementation procedures – essentials in any successful career. Building the confidence to speak in front of large crowds became much easier for Luis after he was asked to emcee 2 consecutive Future Chefs graduations, “I used to be scared to talk in front of huge crowds, now, I can do it perfectly. I mean I still get bats in my stomach, but the crowd doesn't know,” he says.
Luis, armed with great early work experience and coaching, is building his career in Project Management. He hasn’t given up setting goals in his new field, either. His next step is to gain more experience and be state certified in Project Management. Following that, a move outside of the country is possible, opening up more doors for Luis.
His advice to young people is, “You do not have to just look at cooking as your only career. Make your own path, find your own industry, and do it all. And never stop learning! Education is important, even if it’s outside your career choice, it helps you in so many ways,” Luis says. Success can mean beginning in one place and allowing it to lead you to another. And where is Luis now that he 'completed' the Future Chefs program? “I never considered completing Future Chefs. To this day, it is still part of my life,” he says. That's true more than ever, as he joins Future Chefs' Advisory Council this fall, as its newest member.