It’s as if Regina Torres was born to work in the hospitality industry: She loves to travel (she was born in Massachusetts, and lived in Spain and Michigan), loves new challenges, and likes to put her trilingual skills to use. “My favorite part is that it allows me to constantly hone the art of bringing order out of chaos,” shares the 2015 B.A. Hospitality Management grad.
It’s also in her nature to share her skills, which is why she recently became a mentor for the ProStart Invitational, a nationwide high school management and culinary competition sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. Here, Regina shared why she became involved as a mentor.
How did you become involved with ProStart?
It’s all thanks to Dean Sue Tinnish. One day we were in her office discussing different ways to give back to the community and she pointed me in just the right direction: mentoring the students at Roosevelt High School as they prepared for the ProStart competition. I acted as a support to the team and their coach. The students were asked to create a restaurant concept that includes a full menu, pricing details, floor plans, marketing tactics, and other components of a successful business plan. They also had to perfect a three-course meal to prepare on site.
Why did you choose to become a mentor?
First, for the chance to build new relationships. One of the most energizing feelings in the world is meeting new people. Second, to share my knowledge. Knowledge does no good rotting away in the basement of someone’s mind—it’s meant to be shared so we can all benefit from it. Mentoring is an excellent way to do that. Finally, it was an opportunity to give back. I’ve benefited so much from my mentors seeing potential in me. We all have something to offer the world, and oftentimes it takes someone else to see that potential in us before we recognize it in ourselves.
Tell us about the competition. How did your team fare?
Nervousness and anticipation filled the air. This was the day the students had been working toward for months. All their hard work was coming to a head: extracurricular team meetings, brainstorming sessions, careful mapping of floor plans, and marketing tactics. The bulk of the day was dedicated to presentations. While the judges deliberated, the culinary students’ dishes were displayed for all the guests to admire. I’m proud to say that Roosevelt High School brought home the bronze in the culinary competition, the only Chicago public school to crack the top three. While the management team wasn’t recognized, they absolutely benefited from the skills they developed and honed throughout the preparatory period, including time management (respecting deadlines, using the time available to them), working together as a team (listening well, waiting their turn to speak), and presentation skills (good eye contact, clear vocal projection). These skills will serve them well in everything from their next class presentation to their eventual entry into the professional world.
What did you learn about yourself during this process?
This process confirmed that I really do love working with people. I thrive when I am surrounded by other people who have a common goal. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of a team. I also learned how to tailor my message and delivery to my audience. Mentoring these students forced me to go beyond expressing my thoughts—I had to convey my meaning in a way that made sense to them.
What was your most memorable moment?
The 10 to 15 minutes before the students entered the judging room to present. Nerves replace any residual bravado in the students. In that moment, they were in a completely honest state of fear, readiness, and anticipation. Authentic moments draw people together. As their mentor, it was a privilege to share in the students’ experience of the moment before the big moment.
What’s next for you?
This fall, I will begin a master’s in business analysis at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Kendall did a wonderful job of teaching me about the hospitality industry. The college is full of faculty and staff willing to take the time to develop real relationships with students. My plan is to pair the skills I’ve learned with an understanding of business strategy and analysis. I’d like to become a management consultant with a focus on the hospitality industry.
Have you found mentorship—either as mentor or mentee—to be valuable in your career? We would love to hear about it and any advice you have.