Ruvalcaba Aims for the Best
The Henry T. Mudd Prize recognizes extraordinary service
The 2023 Henry T. Mudd prize awardee is a longtime, self-described foodie. Miguel Ruvalcaba has been cooking or working in the food industry since age 14. Growing up in a family of 12, he says he’s used to cooking for and solving problems with large groups of people. He took a cooking class in high school and loved it. Since then, he’s worked at nearly every food-related job, from busboy to catering manager, so he has a thorough understanding of the business.
“I started as a busboy and then was a host and dishwasher,” Ruvalcaba says, referring to his jobs at Reuben’s Steakhouse in San Bernardino. “I always wanted to cook, so I would stay behind and learn. One day when the cook wasn’t there, I jumped into the kitchen and, at age 15, I was cooking at the restaurant. That’s where I met my wife.”
Ruvalcaba began working at Harvey Mudd in 2010. As senior director for dining services, he leads one of the largest departments on campus and is known for his collegial and respectful manner, which exemplifies every aspect of work with his team members, whom he’s quick to acknowledge for their efforts. He directs all food-related services for the College, including Hoch-Shanahan Dining Hall, the Café, catering and Jay’s Place.
In addition to providing training for all employees in food and physical safety, customer service and recipe development, Ruvalcaba works closely with campus administrators to provide high-quality service and delicious, healthy food. During the academic year, he meets weekly with the Student Food Committee to discuss implementing new menu ideas and arranges student events, like Copper Chef, an idea he presented during his HMC job interview. The event helps students build community around a shared meal and the fun of a student competition.
“Harvey Mudd College is a wonderful institution. It’s academically rigorous and, given the challenges our students face, I want food to be the last thing they have to worry about. I advocate and partner with my supervisor to make sure we have the resources to provide the best meal program to serve our hardworking students,” says Ruvalcaba.
“I love what I do. I enjoy providing delicious meals and creatively responding to challenges, such as meeting dietary restrictions or reducing wait times during rush hours. I enjoy the planning and execution of events like Ramadan and Copper Chef,” Ruvalcaba says. “My team and I strive to meet or exceed our community’s expectations regarding food.
“I want to continue to maintain the reputation among the HMC and Claremont community of being one of the best dining halls at The Claremont Colleges.”
Ruvalcaba’s Fast (Food) Facts
Favorite meal: steak, shrimp scampi
Something he can eat over and over: Capirotada, a dessert, similar to bread pudding
Favorite restaurant: Rodizio in Salt Lake City, Utah
How he’s directing half of the $6,000 Mudd Prize: He says he’ll decide after meeting with the Student Food Committee.