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She’s Not in Kansas Anymore, She’s at the Top of Her Class!
Theresa Evans Selected as City Tech’s 2011 Valedictorian

Growing up in the small town of Hays, Kansas – population 20,000 – Theresa Evans treasured the time she spent with her grandparents on their farm. Eating meals that came straight from the land to their table sparked her interest in pursuing a career in the food and wine world.

Her odyssey from a town where eating out meant fast food to New York City, one of the culinary capitals of the world, was not without its challenges. But Evans held fast to her goals and excelled. On Friday, June 3, Evans, who will turn 30 later that month, will deliver the valedictory address at New York City College of Technology’s (City Tech) commencement at Municipal Credit Union (MCU) Park (formerly Keyspan), 1904 Surf Avenue, in Coney Island.

“My fondest memories are of my grandparents and their farm,” says Evans, who will be receiving a bachelor of technology degree in hospitality management. “My grandmother was a great influence. She helped shape me and instill my love for food.”

Those lessons proved important for Evans, an only child whose father had passed away when she was three years old. “My mother’s inner strength showed me how to overcome challenges by believing in myself,” she said.

Evans proved to be resilient and learned to be self-reliant, moving to Florida to attend the Walt Disney World College Program in Orlando after briefly attending Fort Hays State University in her hometown. At Disney, she completed the semester-long paid internship program, earning a certificate in basic food safety training.

She then headed for New York City, where she attended the French Culinary Institute and earned a diploma in Culinary Arts. “I knew I wanted a more formal, broader education,” says Evans, who now lives in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. “After researching many colleges, I chose City Tech. The College has professors who have extensive hospitality experience and a passion to educate the future leaders of our industry.  I got the sense they really cared about their students. It was the only place where I knew I’d feel comfortable, at home.”

Since arriving in New York in 2005, Evans has worked in a series of well-known establishments, including the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, and Abigail Kirsch’s catering operations at Pier Sixty and The Lighthouse. Currently, she is a sommelier at Porter House New York at Time Warner Center, where celebrity chef Michael Lomonaco (’84) is a managing partner.

“Porter House New York is extremely proud and delighted that Theresa Evans’ hard work and great efforts are being recognized by City Tech,” says Lomonaco. “She is an ideal employee who has applied herself with dedication and focus in her work with Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn, (an adjunct wine professor at City Tech). Her knowledge of wines has grown tremendously and we have great faith that her career in hospitality will be one of terrific renown.”

According to Evans, who is graduating with a grade point average of 3.988 out of a possible 4.0, “In life, you’re six people away from whatever you want. At City Tech, the degree of separation is even less. Doors opened for me. The faculty here is very supportive and will give you lots of guidance. Once you tell them what you want to become, they will help you every step of the way.”

Evans’ current goals are clear: “I can see myself having a small restaurant, using farm-to-table ingredients, where I can be creative with the dishes and find the hidden gems of wine.” She made the most of opportunities presented to her at City Tech, volunteering at hospitality-related events like the Société Culinaire Philanthropique Home Picnic, and participating in the College’s study abroad programs, including the Thomas Ahrens International Study Abroad Program in Paris and Work Abroad Program in Alsace, Modul Hospitality Study in Vienna and CUNY’s APICIUS Italy Wine Culture Study Program in Florence.

In her last semester, she took five classes, held down three jobs and did an internship. “I’m good at time management,” she explains. “Yes, the schedule was grueling, but because I have such a passion for food and wine, I prioritized my wants and needs.  You learn to make sacrifices.”

Her perseverance paid off – in the past two years, Evans has won seven scholarships, including those from Brooklyn Eats, the Food and Beverage Association of America’s Food and Beverage Scholarship Foundation, and the American Institute of Wine and Food’s André and Simone Soltner Food Education Scholarship.

“On behalf of the Food and Beverage Scholarship Foundation Inc., I want to congratulate Theresa on having earned the honor of being valedictorian,” says Arline Isaacson, board officer of the foundation. “She has already fulfilled her promise to make us proud of her. We are delighted to continue to support City Tech hospitality management students with scholarships that allow them to grow into rewarding careers in our industry.” 

Now, she is pursuing a higher level of sommelier certification (level II), through the Court of Master Sommeliers.  She also is planning to apply for master of business administration (MBA) programs so she can hone her entrepreneurial skills and move one step closer to her goal of having her own eatery. “I want my place to cater to everyone who appreciates good food and wine,” she says. “People mistakenly believe you have to spend a lot of money to eat well. I hope to prove otherwise.”

When Evans was chosen as valedictorian, she says, "I was overwhelmed, speechless; I could not believe it." The message she wants to give her fellow graduates is to take every opportunity that comes their way. “I feel you have to live your life for what you want to do, not do the predictable. I left the familiar to go out into the world to pursue what I wanted to be. Find your passion and go for it.”


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