A recent graduate of Brookdale Community College’s Hospitality Management program, Larissa Calamari has worked at Water Witch Coffee in Highlands, NJ for seven months. She has already been promoted to chef.
“Larissa speaks very well about the Brookdale program and her experience there,” said Valerie Browning, owner of Water Witch Cafe & Fresh Market. “His passion, work ethic and creativity are greatly appreciated and revered here at Water Witch.”
As the spring and summer months get busier, Water Witch will need more staff.
“It would be wonderful to employ more students who have the same passion for hospitality and the culinary arts,” Browning said.
Larissa grew up in Lincroft and went to Middletown South and always knew she would go to Brookdale because it was such a great school and it was close to her. However, when she graduated from high school and went to Brookdale, she didn’t know what she wanted to do. So, she started studying graphic design and soon realized that she didn’t have those artistic skills.
She quickly passed a career test provided by Brookdale, and hospitality showed up! With the advice of her advisor, she decided to pursue these studies. “And I loved it,” Calamari said.
For the first year, she took classes at the Brookdale campus in Lincroft, and then COVID happened, so in her second year, everything was on Zoom. However, she persevered through the second year and earned a degree in hotel management. “I’m so glad I chose hospitality because I can work with people, and it gives me the opportunity to work in the food industry,” Calamari said.
“All of my teachers have been great. I learned a lot from them. If you put in the effort, they’re willing to work with you. The one thing I liked about Brookdale was the tutoring free, because it really helps you and the teachers appreciate when you put in that extra time.
At Water Witch, she does some of the cooking that goes into their sandwiches and dinners they make once a week.
“You know what’s fun, I still do the weekly specials,” she said. “I’m proud of it.”
Calamari also does inventory and orders. Then she observes the items in stock to help her develop ideas for specials. “It’s quite fun to use your imagination and creativity to see what you can create,” she said of the experience.
One of Calamari’s favorite Water Witch menu items is “San Diego”, a breakfast burrito made with Machaca, a pulled pork that they simmer for six hours and then bake with a mixture of Spicy scrambled eggs. She said, “It’s absolutely fantastic!”
Calamari plans to enroll in the culinary arts program at Brookdale while continuing to work at Water Witch. She has also worked at 2NDFLOOR: Youth Help Line as a support counselor for three years. She got this part-time job while a full-time student at Brookdale.
Although her path was not straight, she did not give up. “Slowly but surely, if you keep going things will get better,” she said. is such a gift to pass on.
Her advice for others who follow her is “Have patience and have fun at the same time. Everyone has a different path. Sometimes it will take longer for things to work out. As long as you are patient and you’re just trying to be optimistic and enjoy what you currently have, then things will be fine for you.
Calamari’s end goal is to move to Vermont and own a cafe or bed and breakfast. In ten years, she will be 42 years old and hopes that this dream will come true.