Q&A with Tessa Maras, outstanding graduate in hospitality management

Tessa Maras holding plates of food in a kitchen
Tessa Maras took a leadership role in Gifford Catering.

The perfect recipe consists of more than physical ingredients. It requires innovation, creativity, and sometimes the right location to glean inspiration. En route to graduation, Tessa Maras, a hospitality management major in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University, masterfully combined each of these elements to cook up an incredible college career.

Passionate about both culinary arts and the outdoors from an early age, Maras felt right at home when she landed in Fort Collins – a city that boasts both amazing views and hundreds of local restaurants. Get to know more about this outstanding class of 2022 grad in the Q&A below.

Where are you from and what brought you to CSU?

I always say that I am from the Disneyland area, also known as Anaheim, California. Growing up, my family moved quite a bit. I’ve lived in five different states, mainly along the west coast! When I got to the point of figuring out where I wanted to go for school, it just felt natural to me to move to another state. Also, as a big foodie and “outdoorsy” person, I was very drawn to Fort Collins.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to graduation? How have you persevered through unforeseen circumstances?

College can be a very trying time for us students, especially when navigating the effects of the pandemic and personal life circumstances that come up. The pandemic has been a very challenging time in my life. The hospitality industry, as a whole, was adversely affected, which in turn led to me temporarily losing my job at the restaurant where I worked.

This situation was particularly challenging because it was unclear what my future in hospitality would look like and if I should even continue my education in this field. While in some respects I feel my education was compromised due to these circumstances, I do, however, firmly believe that without the support of the HM faculty I would not have made it to graduation.

How did your academic experiences here and your professors, mentors, and advisers help you overcome these obstacles and/or be successful in your major?

Instructor with three staff members of Gifford Catering outside of Gifford Building
The student staff of Gifford Catering with instructor Eric Milholland.

I am convinced that the HM program has some of the best teachers in the world. Words cannot describe how much gratitude I feel towards Soo Kang, Eric Milholland, Ken Symsack, Chef Jeff Miller, and Gabe Armstrong, and how much they have impacted my personal and professional life. This group of professors is the epitome of what it means to be a leader in the hospitality industry, and I cannot thank them enough for motivating and supporting me to be the best version of myself.

What activities have you been most involved in?

As someone who has been working in food service for six years with a passion for culinary arts, I was very excited to take advantage of all the hands-on learning opportunities the HM program provided.

I participated in Gifford Catering, held the position of sous chef at the Aspen Grille, was the event head chef for our capstone project, and was even offered the unique opportunity to become one of the first restaurant managers at the Aspen Grille.

Tessa Maras and a group of hospitality management students stand at the CSU administration building.
Tessa Maras (bottom right) with her hospitality management peers.

What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of during your time at CSU?

While here at CSU, some of my biggest accomplishments have been self-development. One goal in my career in hospitality is to change the way our industry treats people. Gaining confidence and the ability to view myself as a leader through my time here at CSU is the first step to making this change.

What will you miss most about CSU and Hospitality Management?

There are so many things I will miss about the HM program, but the most notable will be the professors.

What are your plans after graduating?

After graduation, I will be pursuing my career in hospitality as a food and beverage manager at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center!

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.