Chef Noone’s classroom is notorious for making VVHS students and teachers hungry with the smells of delicious food that fill up the hallways. I met with him and asked him a couple of questions. Here is that interview.
HR: (Hector Ruiz) CN: (Chef Noone)
Start of Interview
HR: Thank you again for taking the time to do this.
CN: No problem!
HR: Okay, my first question is a bit basic, but what got you into teaching?
CN: I have been working in the food in beverage industry since I was 15 years old. I went to college for that at City College of New York; I went to the French Culinary Institute. I fell in love with the cooking side of it, and I continued to go for that and specialize in that. I guess after 30 years of working in the kitchen and running a catering business, I felt as though I was a good teacher, and since I had taught some young chefs, I felt as though I could do it. Then one of my previous sous chefs reached out and said there was an opening; they wanted to start a culinary program in Mesquite. I was honestly ready to settle down and maybe not work as many hours as I was working, you know? But anyway, I’ve always loved to teach young chefs and watch them grow, and lots of previous chefs that worked for me run their restaurants and hotels. So I think I’m really good at it. Then I came and met with the principal six years ago, and I decided to do it. Something told me it would be a good thing. I liked that I was going to build something here I wasn’t walking through art, music, or even culinary programs that were already established. For me, I like a challenge, so I like that I built a program here in Mesquite.
HR: Thank you for that; my next question is, what is your favorite part of your job?
CN: My favorite part of my job is my relationship with my students because I don’t just get them for one year. If you teach Math or English, they move on after one year. For me, my students have been with me for three years. I love to see them grow up and mature. The way I teach it’s not so much about the culinary or the food as it is about how to work in a work environment and to help prepare them for after high school. It also helps them utilize their soft skills, you know, communication and teamwork, and these are skills that everybody needs in life. I think my relationships and watching them grow are most rewarding for me.
HR: Do you have any interesting or cool hobbies other than cooking you like to do?
CN: I mean, even at home [laughter], I have an outdoor pizza oven, I have a fire pit with rotisserie. So it’s not only my love and passion, but it’s also something I love to do as a hobby. I love to make fresh pasta and cheese. Also, you know my fiancé is a chef as well, and most of our friends are in the industry, so we’re pretty much surrounded by it. But we also love to go to shows, I like the Smith Center, and I’ve been to Tuacahn. We love road trips, and I just got back from a trip. I also used to play hockey back when I was younger [laughter].
HR: That’s interesting. Thank you so since food and cooking are such a big part of your life which region of the world would you say is your favorite food?
CN: I guess it would have to be the Mediterranean. I grew up in New York City by the ocean, and I’m Italian. We love seafood. I love olive oil, calamari, seafood, etc. Plus, it’s simple; they use a lot of olive oil, garlic, and lemon.
HR: Thank you. next question, what advice would you give someone who wants to go into the culinary field?
CN: That’s a great question! The biggest mistake that I made was I didn’t research who I was working for. While there are some great companies and restaurant groups to work for and there are some that aren’t. Think about this, if you worked for 7 or 8 years for a company and you just got let go, or they sold the restaurant, how would you feel? So the young people today must research the company they want to work for. Don’t be so anxious to take any job, and there are many more choices and opportunities out there. Research, the company you’re interviewing for. That’s the best advice I could give, make sure you know who you’re working for.
HR: Thank you for that.
CN: Coming back to the hobby question, though, you got me thinking [laughter]. Do you know what I got into during the pandemic… the stock market. So that’s a bit of a side hobby.
HR: [laughter] Oh yeah, many people got into that. So the last question I got for you is there anything you want to mention and any memories you have from these past few years of teaching?
CN: Finish strong! For the memories, I would say a recent one that I’ve had is I have a student going to the Culinary Institute of America, which is basically the Harvard of Culinary.
HR: Oh, Campbell!
CN: Yeah! Campbell Smith, I would love it if you mentioned her. I’ve been working with her this year, and I do believe that she’s going to be a Top Chef one day. She’s going to be very successful. She’s got determination, and she has an excellent work ethic. I got to work one on one with her this year. Boy, I’m proud of her, and I’ve got a lot of students I’m proud of, but she’s going to the best culinary school in the country. I will definitely continue to stay in touch with her, and I have friends who will help her on her path. I’m most proud of her for all she’s achieving.
HR: Well, that was it for my questions. Thank you so much for your time!
End of Interview
Chef Noone wanted to express his gratitude to the Eureka Casino Resort for helping to fund the culinary program in its beginning years, as well as the Mesquite Elks Lodge. Thank you!