A former student of Le Cordon Bleu, Jenny Dao met HTM Program Director, Michael Lao, when he was teaching an introduction class at the culinary institute. Upon meeting and getting to know Mr. Lao’s background, Jenny left Le Cordon Bleu to become a student at GCC. Her goal was to learn about both the front of the house and back of the house aspects of a restaurant. Another deciding factor to make the switch was, “there are more teachers [in the HTM program] that are active professionals in the industry.”
When Jenny was a student at GCC, the HTM program was still in its infancy and she was starting to see the beginnings of what is now the Hospitality Club. She recalls, “The ones [students] that were serious in the program formed a little club and we would sit in the same spots and talk about the industry.” That little club evolved from a gathering based on discussions to a resource for HTM students to gain work experience, professional skills and leadership training.
One of the biggest resources available to the students at GCC is the ability to network. In fact, Jenny got her first big break through a referral from Chef Andrew Feldman, the Director of the Culinary Arts Program. Jenny worked at a volunteer culinary event called American Food and Wine Festival 2007 at Universal City. This is where she met several celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Sam Choy. From that industry event- Jenny was offered a position as a line cook with a contract foodservice company named Bon Appétit based in San Francisco.
Once in the Bay Area, Jenny worked in the culinary industry from the ground up. She started as a prep cook and worked up to Sous Chef- from casual café to fine dining level with such clients as Apple, Academy of Arts University, Genentech, The Gap, Google, Stanford Medical Hospital and The Towers.
Currently, Jenny is a Catering Sales Manager with Panera Bread and is overseeing a district in the San Fernando Valley. She has the opportunity to operate and develop the catering department for the new Encino café- opening in September. Even though her career path has taken her in several directions, Jenny has continued to stay involved in the HTM program. She has guest lectured for Mr. Lao’s classes, participated in Hospitality Club staffing events and started the Testimonials & Alumni section of the HTM website as a staff writer.
Written By: Josh Isaak