Rancho Cielo’s Drummond Culinary Academy Class of 2024

The Friday, June 7 Drummond Culinary Academy graduation ceremony was packed with memorable moments. Speeches from DCA Founder Bert Cutino and Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig and scholarships and awards presented by John Narigi (The Anthony Narigi Scholarship), Carolyn Hardy (The Carolyn Hardy Scholarship) and DCA Director Mark Bruszer inspired tears, cheers and celebration.

Meanwhile, the trio of student speakers was one of the event’s highlights. Kaitlyn Davis (Monterey Peninsula College Hospitality Completion), Tony Campos (Advanced Front House Certificate) and Myndy Flores (Front House High Achievement Certificate and Monterey Peninsula College Hospitality Completion) spoke earnestly through waves of emotions.

“My experience at Rancho Cielo has been nothing short of transformative,” Davis said. “I’ve learned the art of creating a memorable experience for each guest—these lessons have taught me the value of patience, teamwork and attention to detail.”

For Davis, the kitchen has become her “sanctuary.” She’s leaned on the guidance of her dedicated mentors and the aspiring chefs who’ve worked alongside her and learned to love the kitchen’s heat and the rhythm of prepping and plating.

“There’s nothing more magical than turning simple ingredients into a delightful pastry or a confection that brings smiles to everyone’s faces,” she added.

Davis plans to attend Escoffier Culinary School in Boulder, Colorado, where she will study to be a pastry chef.

Campos, meanwhile, had no idea what he wanted to do with his life when he started at DCA. As the program progressed, his talents began to show.

“Being able to work in the kitchen and the front of the house, I realized my passion for the hospitality industry,” Campos said. “I realized I’m a people person. All the people I’ve waited on and served have encouraged me to continue doing this for a career.”

Campos recognized DCA Chef/Instructor EJ Jimenez as an additional boost of encouragement—he lovingly referred to DCA Front of the House Manager Wanda Straw and DCA Event Coordinator Laura Nicola as his “work moms” and DCA Director Mark Bruszer as his “work dad.”

Flores spoke of having fun learning from Chef EJ how to work in kitchens and at events. She also acknowledged her classmates.

“We have worked hard to get here today,” Flores began. “I will always remember the times we worked together on Friday nights and events and the struggle it took to get everything down.”

She concluded on a more personal note: “When I first started going to Rancho Cielo, I was closed off and would keep to myself. If I were told I’d be [standing] here one day, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Flores also plans to continue her studies in Colorado on the pastry chef track.