Life’s Ingredients: A Chef’s Tale

There is no secret recipe for life, least of all a neatly packaged and successful life.

However, great recipes for popular dishes often contain a host of similar ingredients.  When it comes to overcoming obstacles, setbacks, and struggles, a lot of successful life recipes call for healthy portions of love from friends and family, as well as hard work and determination.  For OMA student Michael Rodriguez, these are but a few of life’s necessary ingredients.

Rodriguez, like many great chefs, has not been afraid to experiment and venture into parts unknown.  Be it in the restaurant and food industry or in the field of electronic repair where he started his professional career in the early 90’s with an associate degree from Rets Electronics.  Quickly realizing that copier repair produced a rather bland palate, Rodriguez left the field for the business side of the food industry.

Always a quick study, he moved from a sales position with his first company to operations manager for Kariba Farms, a local organic company where he oversaw the production process from farm to packaged products on store shelves.  Fast forward a few more years, companies, positions and he had the dream offer he had been working for, a regional sales manager position for Kraft Foods in the Mid-Atlantic region.  After the initial offer, he was devastated to learn he did not contain one key ingredient according to Kraft’s recipe, a bachelor’s degree.

This setback came at a terrible time for Rodriguez, a time in which his struggle with addiction produced a dubious recipe of divorce, a period of homelessness, and left him penniless.  He returned to Delaware and started over, working his way up from prep cook, to head chef, to executive chef, to co-owner of his own restaurant with a longtime friend and business associate.

Fast forward another decade as a chef, a handyman work, 12 years of sobriety, and with the loving support and motivation of his fiancé, Amy, and his five children (two of which are also currently in college), and Rodriguez is well on his way to his degree.  He has maintained a 4.0 GPA since returning and through the office of Experiential Learning and the guidance of program chair Dr. Stephanie Battis, he is leveraging the recipes from his life to earn credit through portfolios for several business and management courses in his degree program

— Greg Postle