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El Centro CollegeFood and Hospitality Institute
Dunia Borga, co-owner and head pastry chef for La Duni restaurants in Dallas, lights up a room with her smile and pleases the palate of her customers with delicious desserts. Born in Bogota, Columbia, she describes herself as an “old-fashioned Latina” who began taking pastry classes at El Centro College so that she could make wonderful desserts that would spoil her family. Borga came to the United States in 1974 and settled in California, where she met her future business partner and husband, Espartaco “Taco” Borga, at his Beverly Hills nightclub. They moved to Dallas in 1989 and co-founded ZuZu Handmade Mexican Food. After a stint in New York (where Dunia developed her passion for pastry making), the couple returned to Dallas and co-founded La Duni Latin Café. As the café and its reputation grew, so did the pastry skills that Dunia learned at the El Centro College Food and Hospitality Institute.
Just one short year after La Duni opened (in 2001), the café was named one of the top 20 new restaurants in America by Esquire Magazine and one of the top five by the Dallas Morning News. In 2003, La Duni was recognized as one of the best restaurants in America by the Zagat Guide and Gourmet Magazine, as well as one of the 50 best Hispanic restaurants in the nation by Hispanic Magazine, among many other honors.
“Small classes and personal attention from caring professors helped me convert my passion for cooking into a successful career,” says Borga. Her customers and her family continue to be important. She adds, “Family is not just blood. Family is the people you share a meal with.”
When Shari Carlson arrived in Dallas, she was looking for a new career and a new life. She found it at El Centro College through its chef apprenticeship program. As she completed that program, Carlson rotated through the Dallas Hyatt Regency’s culinary areas and decided that she had found her calling in pastry. After a seven-year career with Hyatt — a time during which she was promoted to assistant pastry chef and then pastry chef — she opened her own business, Dessert Dreams, a wholesale bakery in Irving. That year, she also began teaching as an adjunct instructor for ECC’s Food and Hospitality Institute.
Since then, Carlson has received a number of honors and awards, including induction into the World Master Chefs Society in 1993; the title of Chef of the Year (1998) and Pastry Chef of the year (2004) from the Texas Chefs Association; and top honors in culinary competitions worldwide. Dessert Dreams was recognized as Best Pastry Shop in the American Culinary Federation’s annual Achievement of Excellence Awards competition in 2008. She has participated in the U.S. Navy’s “Adopt-a-Ship” program; has trained and offered externships to many culinary students, including four American Culinary Federation certified pastry apprentices; and, with her company, has participated in fundraising events through her memberships in charities such as the American Heart Association, Dallas Opera Guild, Dallas Food Bank and Dallas Women’s Shelter.
Carlson co-owns Dessert Dreams with her husband, Matthew Melcher, who also has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Food and Hospitality Institute. “The best part of my El Centro experience was all of the people I met there — from the other students to the instructors to the chefs affiliated with the program,” says Carlson. “My education has helped me a lot in my business, not only by the professional connections I’ve made through the program, but also by how I learned in the program. When you learn the physics and the chemical process behind cooking — why you need to do things in a certain way — it sticks in your mind.”
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