Chef Carries On Campus Tradition

Salinas – Tuesdays are almost always long days for Mike Cunnane. In addition to managing food services on the Hartnell College campus in Salinas, he finishes off many Tuesdays by preparing a meal for 100-plus community members.

The tradition started 25 years ago when Hartnell hired this former restaurateur to launch a new culinary program. The program quickly ended after failing to draw in enough students, but its legacy lives on today in the form of weekly international dinners.

During the short-lived program, Cunnane taught a class where students planned international food menus and then served their creations to the community. The international dinners gained a strong following, so the community meals continued as a college class until budget cuts shut that down too.

Since then Cunnane has kept the Tuesday night dinners going with the help of a few student employees. They do 22 dinners a year, each features a different international fare. "Well a lot of these folks won't let me quit, they call all the time and they would really miss it if I did. There are not that many community based programs that bring in seniors. It really is a valuable one for the school and I take it upon myself to keep it going. And I should tell you, we do make a little money on it," said Cunnane. At a price of $7.00 per meal and $4.75 for children, the school brings in $200 to $300 per dinner. Tuesday night dinners at Hartnell are served from 5:30pm to 6:00pm in College Center. The remaining meals this year include:

April 1: Filipino
April 8: German
April 15: Louisiana Creole
April 29: Hawaiian
May 6: Japanese
May 13: American Roast Beef

On the day of the meal, you can find out the complete menu by calling Cunnane at 831-770-6111.