Education, skills and connections: Many say this is the pathway to one’s career

Story and slideshow by PEYTON M. DALLEY

Meet Chris Haston, the head photographer for NBC Studios.

In the small neighborhood on Catalina Avenue in Burbank, Calif., one may not recognize the flood light cameras and crew surrounding the house where the production is occurring. But it’s just another day in Hollywood. The crew and cast are filming a pilot for a television show that they hope will become an instant hit.

Among the hustle, directors are yelling “cut,” “quiet on set” and “that’s a wrap.” Assistants fix fly-away hair, and set designers find the perfect angle of lighting.

Chris Haston, NBC’s head photographer, is part of this scene. Haston has been working for the company for 23 years, and can be found behind the camera capturing the perfect angle of every noted Hollywood icon. He also has had cameo roles in sit-coms like “The Office.”

While Haston’s home may be the rolling green hills of Hollywood, he has also shot movies in Park City and Salt Lake City.

Focusing on the success of Chris Haston

Haston attended a junior college in El Camino, Calif., and tried to figure out which art college he wanted to attend. But he realized formal education wasn’t a good fit for him. “I’m glad I didn’t waste four to six years, when I’m already doing what I love,” he said.

Haston worked at a local camera store in Gardena Calif., a job that meshed with his interest in photography.

While working there, Haston began to take photos of off-road racing, and used a studio called Trackside to edit his footage, experiment with lighting and develop his skillset.

He had also built a connection with a man named Frank Carroll, who was an NBC photographer.

“I stayed on that guy constantly for a job at NBC,” Haston said.

After six years, Haston finally was hired for a lab position in the NBC Studios in Los Angeles producing and making film.

“Persistence and work ethic got me the job,” Haston said. “Being hungry and not letting words ‘it’s not possible’ cross your mind.”

Some aspects of success

Haston not only is doing what he loves, but he also knows his cast and crew. Haston said it’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect in this industry, because it gets people further than any ego.

“Be nice, not egotistical,” Haston said. “Having egos make[s] it impossible to work with [people] in such a competitive field.”

Haston isn’t the only one making dreams a reality. He works alongside photographers Dave Bjerk, Rafael Ortega and Allan Nadel.

Bjerk said timing in the career process is crucial. “Just because something opens up does not mean a person is ready for it,” he said.

Ortega said, “Some people need to go to college for experience. I took pictures and figured out how to use a camera. Can’t say I’m in a better place than I am now.”

Nadel added, “You can definitely make connections in school.”

While the City of Angels may be the hot spot for future careers, connections play a valid role for hitting the big leagues, Haston said.

So how does one break into the field?

Although higher education wasn’t an ideal fit for Haston, others can benefit from taking classes that help them gain skills. The Career Services office located at the University of Utah can be a good resource for students. Director Stan Inman said his office helps current students as well as alumni to tell their story.

While Career Services provides both connections and help with resumes and portfolios, Inman said students “have to have the skillset to do the job.” That becomes the story students can share with their connections.

“Education credentials are important to have,” Inman said. “We provide contacts that can develop into opportunity.”

Students who have graduated from the U can be surveyed and  jobs they have acquired after graduation can be tracked. Although the survey isn’t inclusive, Inman said, the Career Services website shows students as well as potential employers who has hired Utah graduates. Currently, 35 jobs were booked in the film and media industry, and 11 were booked in the theater industry.

“It’s not a cut and paste process,” Inman said. While a job or internship may not happen immediately, it’s important to have the skillset and credentials.

Haston said even in Hollywood, “knowing someone doesn’t get you the job.” But being able to prove yourself with credentials or skillset can help you get a foot in the door.





Traveling Exhibit Program provides Utahns access to high-quality art

Story and slideshow by JORDAN SENTENO

According to the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Traveling Exhibit Program (TEP) delivers high-quality, professional exhibits to numerous educational and nonprofit organizations, including underserved communities. The exhibits travel to museums, colleges, universities, community galleries, arts and cultural centers and libraries.

TEP Coordinator Fletcher Booth said the program is particularly important to rural communities where access to high quality, original art is limited. The exhibits nurture understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, promote creativity and encourage cultural activities in local communities. The program also provides artists a way to showcase their artwork, gain public recognition and increase the value of their art.

Laura Durham, who does marketing and communication for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, said, “The Traveling Exhibition Program is one of the more far-reaching programs we have. It takes visual art to all the regions in the state of Utah, including a lot of schools and community centers that don’t get to see very much artwork.” She added, “The kids especially get very attached to the exhibits when they come to their schools and they hate to see them go. We provide educational materials for the teachers so the kids can interact with the artwork in a meaningful way.”

TEP aims to provide meaningful arts experiences by including educational components that teachers can download and use. The materials vary from exhibit to exhibit. For example, the Design Arts Utah exhibit provides two documents called “Why Teach Art?” and “Looking at Art.” They discuss why art is important and how to look at art in different ways.

“It [TEP exhibits] is the one thing that students will stand and talk about,” said Rhonda Harrison, principal of Fillmore Elementary School, in an interview at Hogle Zoo. “We have seen a lot of conversations about why they think it is drawn or painted. Students look forward to the art work coming [the zoo] once or twice a year.”

Every year, Hogle Zoo sponsors the World of the Wild, which showcases artwork of animals and the wild. According to the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the goal of the exhibit “is to bring together the works of serious artists who are interested in displaying their view of wild animals, plants and places with which we share our world.”

According to a press release, “by highlighting animals and plants in the wild, this exhibition strives to educate viewers on the challenges faced by artists and techniques used when depicting animals. Additionally, this exhibition strives to draw public awareness to and increase appreciation for the animals and fragile ecosystems depicted.”

The companion curriculum, “Stamp Out Extinction,” “encourage[s] students to examine wild animals in their community that may be endangered or approaching extinction.” Teachers can help students use printmaking techniques to create posters that promote animal conservations.

Rose M. Milovich, preservation manager and exhibition program director at Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, said, “Having the opportunity to see and study original artworks from cultural, aesthetic and technical standpoints can really encourage creative/critical thinking and doing.” Milovich, who was at the zoo, added, “This kind of encouragement can happen for anyone at any age. Our world needs people who can think creatively – people who can examine the work and find solutions to all that faces us.”

Each year, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums curates about 20 traveling exhibits that feature many different mediums, processes and styles. For example, photographs that won prizes at the 2015 Utah State Fair are being shown at Grand County Library in Moab through April 26, 2016. The traveling exhibits are scheduled for one-month periods at $125 per exhibit and people can sign up for them online.

Fletcher Booth, as TEP’s coordinator, then creates a schedule. On average, he arranges about 80 exhibits each year.

Laura Durham said, “Not only does this provide the communities with a new show to look forward to, it’s also great for the artists who have work in the shows. Their audience is greatly expanded as a participant in these exhibitions and they can put all these locations on their resume of where individuals have viewed their artwork.”

Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program: bringing art back into the classroom

Story and photo by JOSH SOUTAS

Elementary school students, due to a greater focus on core subjects, have seen their arts programs shrink and almost disappear. The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) is focusing on bringing art back into the classroom.

The BTSALP serves more than 200,000 students in 300 schools across 31 school districts in the state of Utah, including 21 schools across the Salt Lake City School District.

The program, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is administered statewide through the Utah State Office of Education.

According to the website, BTSALP collaborates with deans and staff from the state’s universities to train and provide art specialists to the elementary schools. Those teachers, who are paid for by the organization, help faculty integrate art into their core lesson plans. The specialists also hold weekly art classes that focus on visual art, dance, music and theater, the four disciplines that are sponsored by BTSALP. The program incorporates these different forms of art as a unique approach to reinforce the core curriculum.

The organization reports on its website that student performance is increased in every subject, from language arts and math to social studies and science.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the schools that benefits from the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the schools that benefits from the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the 21 schools in Salt Lake City that participates in BTSALP. Kindergartners to fifth graders are introduced to dancing.

Principal Kenneth Limb said his students integrate science into their dance class. “Our fourth graders learn about land forms, and in their dance class they will use dance moves to depict land forms,” Limb said in a phone interview.

North Star Elementary, located in North Salt Lake, has been part of BTSALP for two years.

The school’s visual arts teacher, who started part time, moved to full-time employment after Principal Lew Gardiner saw the impact visual arts had on the students. North Star covers the other half of her salary that is not paid by BTSALP.

“Kids learn in different ways,” Gardiner said in a phone interview. “The BTSALP gives kids a different opportunity to shine and grow because of art, where in the traditional classroom they might not have that chance. Art is key when it comes to learning.”

Janelle Wride, visual arts teacher at Lincoln Elementary, said in a phone interview she believes that creativity is one of the main reasons that art needs to be in the classroom.

After nine years of teaching at the Salt Lake City school, Wride has seen how integrating the arts with the core subjects has made the curriculum more memorable and relevant to students.

Wride said another benefit she has seen in her schools is that art has no language barrier.

“It gives many of the kids in my school whose first language isn’t English a chance to participate, where in the classroom they don’t get that opportunity as often because of the language barrier. It lets the teachers see them in a different light,” Wride said.

She said she also likes to invite faculty into her classroom when she is teaching their students visual art.

“This program is functioning at its best when there is co-teaching, when the teacher is doing artwork with their own students. It gives the students a ‘we are all in this together’ feeling,” Wride said.

Wride also works with a large ethnic diversity and takes culture into consideration when planning lessons.

“Our fourth grade has a lot of Polynesian students, so I decided to incorporate Polynesian art forms into the lesson for that week,” Wride said. “And the Polynesian students really responded, it was interesting to see how well they reacted because they knew what I was teaching about related to them and their culture.”

Peggy Patterson, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Salt Lake City, said in a phone interview that BTSLAP provides instructors who teach the arts in a way that her teachers cannot.

Patterson also said her music classes have helped the kids with math and science. The students use the beats in music to help them with addition and subtraction.

She has seen the fun that the arts can bring to the core curriculum.

“Every semester we have an informance — not a performance — but an informance, where parents and family are invited to see their kids perform and what they have been working on all semester in the classroom,” Patterson said.

Patterson said she believes that Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program has accomplished what it was created to do — better help students learn core subjects through the use of art.

Utah leaders advocate for more diverse leadership in the future

Story and photos by CHRIS SAMUELS

Kyle Reyes, chief diversity officer for Utah Valley University, said he wished that members of the Utah State Legislature — standing on the steps behind him — could be as diverse as the collection of several hundred middle school and junior high students gathered in front of him.

Kyle Reyes speaks to gathered students at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Kyle Reyes speaks to gathered students at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have our legislature reflect the diversity here,” Reyes said. “Our teachers that are in our schools reflect the diversity here in the state, so I think there is always work to be done. I think we can do a lot more, frankly.”

Reyes and other state and education leaders met Feb. 16, 2016, at the Utah State Capitol to speak to about 300 students for Multicultural Youth Leadership Day. In addition to Reyes, other speakers included Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert and state legislators. A local spoken word group, Truth Cypher, gave a performance, as did a youth step troupe from the True Vine Baptist Church.

Speaking to the gathered youth, Gov. Herbert supported his state for having a long history of diversity and inclusion.

“Our early settlers came from western Europe whether they were Scandinavians, or English people, or Germans, others from Western Europe,” Herbert said. “That diversity is making us even stronger and more successful, particularly in the world’s economy of today, because we have so many different cultures and speak so many different languages in Utah. … We really speak the world’s languages, and that gives us some opportunity for economic growth as we go forward.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to assembled youth at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to assembled youth at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Claudia Nakano, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, shared Gov. Herbert’s statement, and added that the state continues to be diverse.

“The U.S. Census is predicting by the year 2043, this nation will be a majority-minority nation, and in Ogden and in West Valley, they are already majority-minority cities here in Utah,” Nakano said. “One out of four preschoolers is ethnic and comes from an ethnic background. We’re hoping to inspire leadership, getting involved in your community, civic engagement, and take those seats up here on the hill and pass legislation.”

Youth came from as far as Ogden and Payson to attend the summit. Students listened to the program for about an hour and 20 minutes, which was followed by lunch and tours of the Capitol.

Students from across the state listen to speakers at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Students from across the state listen to speakers at the leadership day, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

The day at the Capitol is part of a greater initiative by the Office of Multicultural Affairs to involve diverse youth from around the state to become more involved civically. The office also organizes and holds a Multicultural Youth Summit every October, which hosted 2,000 students in October of 2015. The aim of the state-run department is to aid the state in making better outreach efforts to promote civic engagement and cultural diversity in government across the state. The summit is part of these efforts.

The summit, Nakano said, was designed in part by Gov. Herbert’s “66 by 2020” initiative. The project, according to the governor’s website, sets the bar of having 66 percent of Utah’s working-age population with a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.

“We want to help raise that graduation rate, and now with our changing demographic, we are becoming more diverse, not only in Utah but across the nation,” Nakano said.

Not all sentiments are positive on Utah’s outlook. Nakano conceded that the current makeup of state legislators needs to be more ethnically diverse, which would help support more diversity initiatives and better legislation on equality. Although no statistics are available on the ethnic makeup of the current legislative body, the vast majority are white male.

Kyle Reyes, UVU’s chief diversity officer, echoed these feelings, adding that higher education administrators from around the state are collaborating on diversity reform. But, he said state legislation still needs to be impacted.

“When I talk to people about multiculturalism, I like to say it’s not just another thing we do. It’s how we do business, it’s a lens that we wear,” Reyes said. “And if we can get more people, especially more people in powerful positions to wear those lenses and be a little more sensitive and be more culturally responsible, I think that will go a long way.”

Youth from the True Vine Baptist Church perform at Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Youth from the True Vine Baptist Church perform at the Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

In the coming years, the Office of Multicultural Affairs will plan additional youth leadership summits and events across the state. Nakano said a smaller summit in addition to the large one in October 2015 was held in Ogden, which hosted 300 children. Smaller summits are anticipated in other cities in Utah, such as St. George, Cedar City and Vernal. The 2016 legislative session added an additional $30,000 in funding for the summit.


The Utah Cultural Alliance: Past, present and future


It all began in 1981 as Utah Citizens for the Arts. According to a history of the organization, it led the development of the public art programs in Utah. It also held events to help educate the community and elected officials.

Then, in 1993, it assumed a new identity and became the Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA). Its job is to work with the art and culture organizations as well as the legislators and county governments to solidify funding throughout the state of Utah and its community.

“Everyone and anyone can work with the arts and make a contribution to the community,” said Kate Ithurralde in an email interview. Ithurralde serves on the UCA board as treasurer.

According to UCA’s website, the organization serves as “the voice of the arts, humanities and cultural sector of Utah.” Its mission is to “empower and strengthen this community through advocacy, professional development and awareness.”

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, executive director of UCA, said, “It’s a great way to help the Utah community and for others to get involved and make a difference in the community as well.”

According to the website, UCA has transformed into a membership-driven organization comprised of many museums, corporations, and groups such as the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Stewart Foundation and the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

UCA has joined to help support the Utah community through cooperation, communication and advocacy in an attempt to help increase the value of the arts program in the state.

“I choose to be involved because the arts and humanities have a rich history in our state and I think we can do a better job supporting the sector,” said UCA Board Chair Jason Myers in an email interview. “By doing that I believe we will have more vibrant and rich communities — culturally and economically,” said Myers, who manages internal communications at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Young-Otterstrom said one way that community members can become involved is by becoming an advocate. “The most important part of advocacy is anyone can choose to be involved, can talk to an elected official. It’s really not a hard thing to get in touch with one of them and get involved,” she said in a phone interview.

UCA seeks community involvement to help impact the culture in Utah. The organization is committed to working with people to increase their individual and organizational knowledge of policy issues. UCA also involves the community by hosting events like Arts Day on the Hill in February, which UCA notes is an opportunity for residents to connect with their legislators and discuss why the arts are important.

UCA has a new five-year strategic plan for 2016-2020 that outlines its desire to become the forefront organization of Utah’s cultural issues. A subcommittee of the board factored in the mission, vision and value statements when creating the plan.

The subcommittee identified several guiding principles to help UCA accomplish its goal. For example, the small group recommended creating a separate advocacy branch that will enable UCA to endorse candidates and pursue fundraising to directly support advocacy efforts in Utah.

Another guiding principle is awareness. The organization aims to expand marketing and public relations in order to increase appreciation of the arts. It also plans to develop a Utah Culture Wiki, a comprehensive site about the arts and humanities.

According to UCA’s website, “the Utah Cultural Alliance [looks] to become the top voice of the arts, humanities and cultural sector of Utah.”

Artist exposed: What does it take to make it in Utah?

Story and photo by PEYTON M. DALLEY

While blue skies and daunting summers may claim Utah’s geography, the passion driven from local artists shines brighter than any summer day could.

From public art outside to Saturday morning farmers markets, local artists can be seen from every part of the state, enlightening audiences from Saint George to Logan.

What exactly does it take to be a successful artist in this state? Utah has world-renowned programs at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University that focus on art-related programs, and platforms like the Utah Cultural Alliance that allow local artists to be showcased.

However, does education play a role in the success of the artists that Utah is producing? Or is it the connections made by individuals that create their success?


Crystal Young-Otterstrom

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, executive director of the Utah Cultural Alliance and a noted opera singer, is one example of Utah success. She has been named one of Utah Business Magazine’s “40 under 40″ and boasts an impressive resume that includes performances in Vivace, an opera group based in the Utah area, helping to start the Utah Symphony and founding her own company, Foursight Partners. Young-Otterstrom is an artist who has shown success in the Utah community.

Young-Otterstrom earned a music theory degree from BYU, and completed her master’s degree at Queens College in New York. She credits her success to her knowledge of the field and the skill sets she learned in college. But, she added, “You [also] learn along the way.” Young-Otterstrom currently promotes her own company while serving on the board of several art organizations, including LDS Composers Network.

Young-Otterstrom said connections can help people get from one step to the next. She said she has gained valuable contacts through the wide variety of work she has done with local organizations.

Another success story in the Utah community is Pat Bagley, the editorial cartoonist for the Salt Lake Tribune. He said in a phone interview that he “immersed” himself in the arts community and took history and political science classes. Bagley said “it helps to be exposed to what you want to do.”

Bagley’s work has been featured in Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Bagley, also a  graduate of BYU, has been putting pen to paper at the Tribune since 1979. He said connections are helpful, but skill set is more valuable. He obtained his job at the newspaper based on his portfolio.

While success can be found in the Utah market, what are the necessary steps to get there?

Tanner Forbes aspires to one day make Broadway headlines. Photo courtesy of Tanner Forbes.

Tanner Forbes aspires to one day make Broadway headlines. Photo by Wendy Clymore.

Tanner Forbes, a student at BYU who is triple majoring in the Music Dance Theater Program, is hoping to one day break into the arts field, locally as well as nationally.

“I think there needs to be a balance of talent and connectivity,” Forbes said in an email. “I strongly believe that all talent will eventually make its way to the top, but there’s communities of artists everywhere and you have to immerse yourself in that world in order to expand your success as an artist. But always be trained! Always be trained before you jump into communities of artists. Education works wonders with that.”

Forbes is currently a BYU Young Ambassador. He credits his ambitions to the skill set he has developed in his courses and  through outside training. He also studies the work of individuals such as the late actor Heath Ledger, who died in 2008, for  inspiration.

Forbes is focused on his future and is passionate about his career choice. He hopes to land an audition on Broadway after his training at BYU, and hopes to play a role such as Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon” in New York City.

“I’ve found that Utah is extremely diverse,” Forbes said. “Sure, it’s no New York or [Los Angeles,]  but we have so many different types of people pursuing so many different types of paths, especially in the Salt Lake area. There’s really opportunities for everyone here.”



University of Utah professor and chef collaborate and create ways to spice up their nutrition class

Story and slideshow by SYDNEY BULL

Catch Chef J Looney in action cooking up some of his favorite dishes.

“Follow your bliss,” Chef J Looney said as he lounged next to the fireplace while enjoying a green smoothie.

Looney is a private chef in the Salt Lake area. He caters events and works for the College of Health at the University of Utah as well. He is obsessed with cooking and shares foods from other cultures around the world with a diverse group of students in the Cultural Aspects of Food class, NUTR-3620.

It all started when Looney was a young kid. His father has been in the food service for a very long time and worked with institutional food, in churches, hospitals and schools on a mass scale.

When Looney was 8 years old, his father managed a cafeteria in a church office building in downtown Salt Lake serving between 3,000 and 5,000 meals a day.

Looney said he fell in love with the action in the kitchen and the look of the large stockpots full of chicken noodle soup and the fact that his dad could make so much food for all those people in need.

Once he turned 14 he lied on his application and told his hiring manager that he was 15 so he could be hired as a dishwasher. He went home every night with the stench of grease and dishwater but loved every second of it.

Looney then spent eight to nine more years there working his way up to line cook and then lead cook. He was finally promoted to managing a prime rib and seafood buffet before he decided to leave the food service industry.

Looney said he realized that he was still making minimum wage compared to all of his friends, which swayed him into working for “corporate America” at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in central reservations. He worked there for seven years and traveled to many of its hotels.

He spent the next nine years in UPS management, but when he turned 40 years old he said he felt like something was missing. Looney needed that spark. That is when he decided to go back into the food industry again.

He said his wife was hesitant to let him quit at UPS because the pay in the food industry is low and the hours are long. But Looney insisted it was his passion.

“I just want something more,” Looney said. “I want to do something I am passionate about rather than do something just for a paycheck over and over again. I trusted my gut that it was going to work out.”

Word got out that Looney was getting back into food business. His friend Jason, who owns Point of Sale Retail System, called him up and asked Looney for a list of his top five dream jobs.

Looney said that Jason sent out letters of introduction. That is when Karen Olsen, the owner of the Metropolitan, called Looney and offered him an interview with the restaurant’s head chef. (The Metropolitan used to be the crown jewel of Utah’s fine dining but is no longer open in Salt Lake City.)

However, Looney said he met with the head chef and explained that although he had been out of the food service for 15 years, he cooked consistently throughout that time period and still had a huge love and desire toward it.

He was offered an unpaid shift to see if he was qualified enough to work in its kitchen. Looney, who never attended culinary school, said he walked in with only one knife.

The head chef placed Looney at the salad station, and it wasn’t easy. He said after a whole night of feeling completely stressed and demoralized, the head chef offered him the job as a line cook.

Looney said it was still a bad paying job and had long grueling hours but he used it as an opportunity to learn as much as he possibly could from everyone in the kitchen.

Once the Metropolitan closed, Looney became an executive chef at the Prairie Schooner in Ogden, Utah. At the same time, he also got a call from a friend at the U, who wanted his help teaching a nutrition class focused on ethnic foods.

The class, Cultural Aspects of Food, became extremely popular once word got around on campus that there was a chef cooking food for students. Looney worked with another talented cook, Tahmina Martelly, a chemist and licensed nutritionist who works as a professor at the U

After two and a half semesters, the class expanded to four classes a week and became a significant part of Looney and Martelly’s career. Their teamwork allowed her to spend time in the class teaching the cultural factors of each region while Looney spent time in the lab cooking up different recipes according to those regions.

“Food is like a language,” Martelly said. “Food is a huge part of cultural identity and has a sense of home and helps people connect to a new place and also has a healing effect.”

Martelly’s experience with food hits closer to home than most people in the United States. She is a refugee from Bangladesh and now also works as a program director for after-school tutoring and homework help at the International Refugee Center (IRC). In addition, she teaches a computer class to adult refugees to help them gain experience and find future jobs.

The Cultural Aspects of Food class is important to her because of her experience, knowledge and perspective of different cultures covered in the class. She is in the middle of rewriting the course curriculum because the way she teaches is more personable and relatable than other instructors.

Martelly has done a lot of traveling and has more background with these regions compared to the other instructors. She said she wants to help the department apply knowledge from her experiences and standardize those items compared to just teaching out of the textbook.

“When Chef J and I got together he wasn’t as familiar with the cultural stuff,” Martelly said. “Which is why I did most of the teaching and he did the cooking in the lab. He has a teachable spirit, he talks and cooks at the same time. He is very good at interacting with his students. He is a talented cook but very modest and humble. Most chefs I know have a huge ego. But the more we teach and give background information the more he learns and the more familiar he gets with the recipes and the cultures behind them.”

Chef J Looney found his bliss. So on top of teaching he began cooking for athletes, doctors, families and friends. He said he makes a pretty good living now, to the point where his wife is completely happy and satisfied.

“I started promoting that I can cook meals for individuals and families while also catering events,” he said. “I have a pretty solid client list, about 20 people that I cook for at any given time. On Mondays I go grocery shopping, Tuesday I spend cooking all day and Thursdays and Fridays I spend planning out the meals for the following week. It’s a good gig and the days in between I spend on campus teaching because I want to. That’s basically how I got into the whole personal chef thing and wedding season is coming up so I have a few weddings scheduled for the next six months.”

Looney rarely cooks at people’s houses, he mainly works out of a commissary kitchen on Redwood Road, which gives him plenty of space to prep meals for the week. Around 8 a.m. he and his staff prepare approximately 10 different meals within five hours. Then when completed he and his staff send the coolers off to be delivered to the clients’ door. Typically he makes about five lunches and five dinners per client. However, his bodybuilding clients are a little high-maintenance.

Not in a bad way though, they just require about six smaller meals a day and have a very selective menu to choose from. Because Looney is so familiar with flavoring his meals, it helps bodybuilders spice up their foods without going over their macros, the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats they consume on a particular day. That is why Looney occasionally offers a Bodybuilder’s Meal Prep Class to demonstrate cooking skills and items that can make their food taste better without sabotaging their physical gains.

Looney is an experienced cook and does his best in social media marketing. But most of his marketing is done by word of mouth because he leaves all of his clients and students feeling not only full and satisfied but also inspired.

Chef J Looney and Tahmina Martelly are a dynamic duo in the classroom and have worked very hard to be successful human beings. They are prime examples of the cliché phrase, “follow your dreams.” But how else can one be truly happy if he or she is not taking risks and living life fully?

“My whole underlying theme to my life thus far is, just do what you love,” Looney said. “I spent 15 years in ‘corporate America’ because I thought I needed a paycheck. And when I really took the leap to follow what I wanted to do made all the difference. And yes I took a lot of risks and it hasn’t been smooth sailing, there’s been some huge learning lessons, a lot of pain, blood, sweat and tears getting there. But I have never been happier in my life. So whatever the price you have to pay to follow your bliss, pay the price. Build your lifestyle around what it is you love doing, not the other way around.”