Have you ever wondered who’s behind the meals at Sacred Heart University? Meet David Garcia: Sacred Heart University’s Campus Executive Chef.
In early September, Garcia was celebrated during Chef Appreciation Week for his recent “Chef of the Year” award through Chartwell’s Higher Education.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Mark Tammone, Resident District Manager of Sacred Heart Dining. “Chartwells has over four hundred accounts across the country…and he got picked! For him to win an award like this, he has risen above tens of thousands of chefs, country wide. It’s huge for us and it’s huge for the university.”
Born and raised in Westchester, N.Y., Garcia entered the culinary world as a teen, influenced by his father, who has been a chef for over 29 years. Before Sacred Heart, Garcia worked in the catering, restaurant, and hotel industries.
During his time at Sacred Heart, Garcia has contributed to the growth and variety of dining options on a large scale.
“When I first started here, it was just Linda’s, the main market, 63’s, and the library. My first one was Balance Kitchen, then Einstein’s opened, then JP’s, then Thea’s, then all of West Campus. Throughout my career, I have opened something every single year,” said Garcia.
When asked about the establishments he helped to create, Garcia highlighted his involvement with Thea’s Abbey.
“My pinnacle was Thea’s…it allowed me to really showcase what my vision was from a culinary perspective”, Garcia said. “It’s a little bit of everything around the world kind of thing.”
Garcia also mentioned his appreciation for JP’s Diner.
“JP’s is my second favorite,” said Garcia. “JP’s has that restaurant feel; the creativity there is endless.”
At SHU, the community notices and appreciates Garcia’s work ethic in their dining experiences.
“I am happy he got recognition for his hard work!” said sophomore Lila Armstrong. “We see him working hard to give everyone a positive dining experience.”
While Garcia has found a career in culinary school, it was not his first intention for schooling. After going to community college and then the University of New Haven, Garcia transferred to the Lincoln Culinary Institute.
Despite his change of career path, Garcia is glad he found a place within higher education. He can have a work-life balance as the university follows a college-based schedule.
Faculty members and coworkers of Garcia also notice his dedication to the job.
“He brings the level of the program to where it deserves. He works tirelessly. He’s really up on trends and he is not afraid to try anything new to bring to the students – he is a great asset to us all,” said Tammone.“It’s a team effort,” Garcia said. “We have about three hundred plus employees, management there is about twenty of us. We are here for our students, our clients…this is home for you guys, and our dining halls are essentially your kitchen.”