Meet Alex Gonzalez, the dining services director at Avista Downtown Mesa. He has a great positive attitude and a knack for putting people at ease. He’s been working in the food industry for more than 15 years and brings his expertise to Avista Downtown Mesa with his home-cooked comfort foods that residents love.
“We want our residents to feel good when they eat, and so we base our menu on the seasons,” he says. “During summer we will do lighter foods: chicken salad on lettuce, chef salad, trio salad. During winter, we make beef stew and other warm, hearty dishes.”
Gonzalez starts each day early – about 5am. He starts with cooking the bacon and oatmeal needed for breakfast. The rest of his day consists of inventory, ordering, cooking, scheduling, talking with the servers, and helping out in the dining room. He says his favorite part is always interacting with the residents.
“I’m definitely close with the residents,” he says. “I know all their likes and dislikes.”
Gonzalez says he truly enjoys coming to work and enjoys his interactions with the staff and residents at Avista Downtown Mesa.
“For me, it’s been a great learning experience and that’s what I love about Avista,” he says. “It’s really helped me develop and grow. I’ve come into my own here.”
During high school, Gonzalez told his mom he wanted to gain more independence and learn how to cook. So he made the decision to take dual enrollment classes through Scottsdale Community College’s culinary program. His first position out of school was at the food court in Superstition Mall.
“It was a really good learning experience,” he says, “but I knew I didn’t want to stay there forever.”
After working in food services for a few years, he decided to apply to a senior living community. He was surprised to find that he really enjoyed working with older adults. He didn’t anticipate this career path, but he says he is glad to have found Avista.
“I’ve had so much support all along the way,” he says. “I’m always able to go to Stacy [Zimmerman, executive director at Avista Downtown Mesa]. She’s always willing to help and guide the staff here.”
When he’s not cooking for the residents at Avista Downtown Mesa, Gonzalez says his favorite food to make at home is spam and potatoes with jalapeños.
“I’m a really basic person,” he says with a laugh. “I love the simple things.”
Gonzalez says he is grateful for the support of his family and loves spending time with them and with his dog, a Maltese Pomeranian. He was born and raised in Arizona and says it is so wonderful to be close to home.
His advice to new graduates looking for a career? Get some experience and see if it’s really something you want to do.
“It’s not easy, but if you enjoy it, then go for it,” he says. “I really want to do this, and I try to put my best foot forward every time.”