Sheree Mooney '08, hotel and restaurant management

Sheree Mooney

Sheree Mooney’s dream started with a toy oven.

She would pull out her Fisher-Price oven, “cook” plastic hot dogs, put them on a plate and serve them to her parents.

That early love of cooking carried the 2008 alumna through The Collins College of Hospitality Management program to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to the executive sous chef position at San Francisco’s SPQR, which earned a prestigious Michelin star during her tenure there.

“My favorite thing about being a chef is that first bite someone takes,” she says. “How satisfied someone is is the most amazing part.”

About a year ago, Mooney returned to Cal Poly Pomona to fulfill another dream she has long had – teaching.

“When I was coming to school here and doing the restaurant series, I always knew that I wanted to come back and teach,” she says.

The Walnut native returned as a front-of-the-house instructor, which took her out of the comfort of her kitchen. She later transitioned to the back of the house. Mooney credits the experiences she had as a student in the hospitality management program with her desire to mentor students.

“I was able to follow my dreams because of this program. I want them to follow their dreams,” she says. “I tell them that this is the most challenging ‘management-in-training program’ and because of this program, I was able to achieve all of my dreams faster.”

Before entering culinary school, Mooney says she ate at a restaurant called Craft Los Angeles and loved it so much that she made it her goal to work there.

Once she finished her program, she applied for a job there and started working with chef de cuisine Matthew Accarrino and owner Tom Colicchio, co-host of the “Top Chef” TV series. Mooney started at manager of the restaurant’s cold station, which included salads, canapes and hors d’oeuvres.

After a year, she worked her way up to the meat station. By then, Accarrino had left to run the kitchen at SQPR in San Francisco and he recruited Mooney.

“I only planned to be there one year, but I was there for three and a half,” she says.

While at SPQR, which specializes in modern Italian cuisine, the restaurant earned a prestigious Michelin star.

“It takes consistency, an eye for detail, passion, dedication and drive,” Mooney says on what it takes to earn a Michelin star.  

She also helped Accarrino put together a cookbook, serving as a tester for the recipes.

After returning home and marrying her longtime boyfriend, Brandon, Mooney worked as a culinary assistant/director of culinary operations for celebrity chef Sang Yoon at Father’s Office gastropub in Los Angeles and later at Lukshon.

After about a year, she got the call about a job at The Collins College.

Barbara Jean Bruin, a fellow alumnus and a lecturer who had Mooney as a student, welcomed her mentee back with open arms.

“Sheree was in my class in spring 2007,” Bruin says. “She was outstanding, fabulous, very organized and extremely focused. She was very willing to learn. She was like the ideal student.”

Bruin, who calls Mooney “one of her favorite baby girls,” says she could see that passion and fire in Mooney early on to become a chef.

That she came back to mentor and teach students makes Mooney truly special, Bruin said.

“These students love her and they absolutely respect her and the mentorship they are getting from her,” Bruin says. “She’s tough. She wants them to be great. She pushes them to be great.”

Mooney says the students also push her.

“The students are my No. 1 priority. They are the ones who drive me to do better,” she says. “I tell them if you give me 100 percent, I’ll give you 100 percent. I love every minute of it here.”