Faculty & Administration
Chef José Casals - Assistant Professor
José was born into a family steeped in a rich culinary tradition. Like his grandfather a certified chef and mother before him, Jose found his passion in cooking early on. Today, Chef Casals holds a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration on Hospitality Management. In addition, the prestigious American Culinary Federation has certified Chef Casals as an Executive Chef since 2002. After graduating with his first degree at the age of 20, and working for some of the most notable restaurants in Palm Beach Island, Chef Casals took his skills, where else, but Walt Disney World. There he quickly learned the Disney system and became Chef at several high profile restaurants within the Disney organization that included the famous Brown Derby a Specialty Restaurant and the Banquet Department at the Disney MGM Studios.
For many years, Chef Casals worked on honing his skills and he developed an incredible ability to create imaginative dishes. During this time he became, a Disney Chef Ambassador for the Epcot Food and Wine festival appearing on live TV and radio showcasing many cutting edge techniques, in both English and Spanish. Chef Casals can be also seen preparing special recipes on local and regional television, talking about food on radio, judging culinary competitions, lecturing to and advising culinary students around the world
Chef Patrick McCurry - Senior Instructor
Chef Patrick McCurry is a native of South Florida. Immediately following his attendance at University of Central Florida , he chose to pursue his passion in the culinary field to attend the Art Institute Fort Lauderdale. While attending school, he worked under acclaimed James Beard winner Chef Johnny Vinczencz. Soon after, he continued his education to receive a Master's degree from The University of Phoenix. His history of employment includes several years of working in highly respected restaurants in the Fort Lauderdale area including Johnny V's, Fish, Jackson's Steakhouse and Morton's.
Chef Pedro Acosta - Instructor
Chef Pedro Acosta found his passion for cooking very early in his life, working and learning the basic skills from his family; taking most of his inspiration from his father. He desired to take his dreams and pursue a career in the culinary world. Chef Pedro holds a Bachelor degree in Culinary Management from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale as well as a Master degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University.
Chef Paul Galadza - Instructor
Chef Paul Galadza has been holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from Florida International University. Formerly Executive Chef and General Manager at Captains Tavern, he now dedicates his time to teaching young culinarians. Chef Galadza has been recognized by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Executive Chef.
He also holds a certification in Serv Safe. In addition to his teaching students at The Miami Culinary Institute Chef Galadza teaches at Robert Morgan Educational Center.
Chef Asser Y. Ghali - Instructor
Asser "AY" Ghali has enjoyed being in the Culinary and hospitality field since 1976, his education started with a culinary and hospitality management degree from the French Hotel School of Alexandria, then a "CP&HM" Certified in Pedagogic and Hotel schools management from the CDG Germany.
Chef Ana Plana - Instructor
Chef Ana Plana graduated Summa Cume Laude with her degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. In 2009, she received Rookie Teacher of the Year at MAST Academy, in 2010, she received FENI Secondary Educator of the Year award, in 2013-2014 she was named Teacher of the Year at MAST Academy. Currently she holds a position on the board of Le Dames D'Escoffier Miami Chapter as member at large for education. Ana continues as a Culinary Arts instructor and department chair at Mast Academy, as well as an adjunct professor at the Miami Culinary Institute of Miami Dade College. From The Blue Door - Delano Hotel, to the Sandestin Resort at The Elephant Walk Restaurant, Lowell-Hunt Catering in Seattle, Ana has had a range of experiences in the culinary world.
Chef Steve Sabatino - Instructor
A native of New York he is a graduate of The French Culinary Institute in New York City. His extensive background includes Chef for Whole Foods Market, The Essex House Hotel, The Mark Hotel, Catering companies, Cruise Ships and Executive Chef at Madison Square Garden. He has fed celebrities, sport stars and even Presidents.
Chef Nidia Santiago - Instructor
Nidia Santiago is from Panama, and along with her family moved to Miami ten years ago. Her admirable education includes a BA Degree in International Affairs, BS Degree in Hospitality Administration, MBA in Finance, Post Graduate Diploma for University Professor, and a Culinary Degree from Johnson & Wales University. Nidia’s experience is composed of event logistics and restaurant management in the hospitality industry that include the Conrad Miami Hotel, the Panama Marriott Hotel and Resort, and the InterContinental West Miami Hotel. Besides her front of the house experience, Nidia has dedicated her efforts to create healthy recipes to Schools such as La Prima Casa Montessori in Miami, F.P. International Christian School of Miami, The Metropolitan School of Panama, Key Point Academy International in Miami, and now The Miami Culinary Institute of Miami Dade College.
Chef Nidia has worked for TV Shows such as La Buena Mesa TV-Nestle in Panama, Tu Desayuno Alegre - Venevision International in Miami, and Mi Bebe – (Fox Networks- Utilisima International), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her passion guided her to create Food n’ Colors Catering Inc., where the main mission is to teach children the different alternatives of healthy eating by cooking simple recipes.
Chef Morgan L. Nims - Instructor
Chef Nims graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in the Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, she studied classical French cuisine at the Ecole Suprieure De Cuisine De Francoise in Paris, France. She has won both gold and silver medals in the American Culinary Federation Hot Food Competitions and was also a participant 2000 World Culinary Olympics held in Eufurt, Germany.
Specializing in International Cuisine, she states “I always Cook from the Heart.” For five years Chef Nims created her culinary magic for Walt Disney World Resort restaurants including its Biergarten Restaurant, The Coral Reef, Epcot Events, Germany Pavilion and the African Outpost. She adds, “My Passion is for Foods of the Sea and preparing them in their Ethnic tradition and my Classical training gives me a wonderful base to create my signature fusion of flavors.” Chef Nims was the Executive Chef for Britto Restaurant of South Beach Miami where she created a culinary fusion of art and food with Miami’s celebrated artist Romero Britto.
Most recently Chef Nims was the personal chef for Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal of the Miami Heat; she created many dishes for the Heat Star and traveled with him extensively.
I believe that with the balance of education and experience an individual has no boundaries.
Cooking and Teaching from the Heart!
Jesus Vazquez - Program Coordinator
Jesse began his career with McDonald’s Corporation in 1986. During his time with the food service giant, he held various positions, including Multi-Unit Manager, Business Consultant and Senior Operations Consultant. Internationally, Jesse was a member of the development team that opened new markets for McDonald’s in Mexico (1987) and Martinique (1990).
In 1999, Jesse decided it was time to take the next step and became the Owner/Operator of the first Chicken Kitchen franchise located in Pinecrest, Florida. First year sales for the new restaurant exceeded $2 million making it one of the highest sales per square footage restaurants in the United States. In 2001, Jesse open a second Chicken Kitchen restaurant in Country Walk, Florida. In 2008, Jesse opened his third and own concept restaurant in Miami, Florida.
Jesse believes in giving back to his community and has served on several community service organization boards, including:
Jesse has a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Economics/Finance and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Finance.
Chef Bernardo Espinel
With over 20 years of experience, he has worked as a chef for distinguished restaurants in world-renowned hotels and resorts including the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami and Kurahulanda Resort in Curacao, Netherland Antilles. He has extensive experience in menu development that includes Indian, Asian, Latin-Caribbean, Mediterranean, and American Contemporary influences. Chef Bernardo is now training future chefs the essential skills, they need for success in the kitchen, management of employees, and restaurant operations.
Chef Pamela Williams
MA, CEC, ACE, CHE
Chef Pamela Williams is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and a Certified Executive Chef. She holds a Master’s degree in Hospitality management from FIU and is a lead certification evaluator for the ACF.
Pamela has been working in the industry for many years. She has worked and studied in some of the finest restaurants around the globe. From New York City, London, Dallas, New Orleans, Palm Beach and Switzerland, Chef Williams has worked alongside many of the industry’s top professionals.
A strong believer in changing lives through education, Chef Williams is devoting her skills and talents to mentoring the up and coming generations of Hospitality and Culinary students.
Chef Williams has spent countless hours teaching students how to chop, dice, sauté and simmer, and sharing with them what it takes to become a successful professional in the culinary and hospitality fields.
As a new member of the MCI and Hospitality Institute family, she is very eager to share her experience and knowledge with the next group of aspiring professionals.
Chef Malka Espinel
Malka Espinel is perhaps one of South Florida’s pre-eminent pastry chefs. She is young, bright, incredibly talented and above all creative. Born in Colombia, Espinel credits her love for desserts to numerous hours spent in her grandmother’s kitchen. Her Latin roots spur her eclectic creations; an artful fusion of Latin flavors and complex textures, paired with the simplicity of classic American pastry art. She painstakingly prepares her desserts, enticing the always enthusiastic patrons to dive into her creations. She has carved a name for herself, not only in South Florida, but nationally, having graced the pages of such respected magazines as Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design, among others.
Espinel finished her degree in Food Engineering in Colombia and decided to move to the United States for a more specialized degree in Culinary Arts where she completed yet another undergraduate degree from The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. Armed with both diplomas, Espinel moved to Miami to pursue her Master’s degree at Florida International University. She attributes her stellar success to hard work and dedication, but above all to being herself and being true to her flavors.
An enthusiast of new cultures and art, Espinel claims that the more she travels, the more she learns about different customs and foods. While open to exciting opportunities to work short term abroad, she asserts that South Florida is where she sees herself in the end. Espinel also promises that she plans to eventually open her own business, where lovers of her delicious desserts and exotic ice creams can indulge their guilty pleasures anytime of the day or night. We’ll all be waiting!
Chef Richard Matthews
Chef Matthews has over twenty year’s career experience in culinary arts and public administration. He is dedicated to developing instructional lesson plans that help students achieve their career goals in the culinary arts.
Chef Matthews undertook a ten year career in public administration from 1990 to 2000. During his tenure, he was recognized for career achievements with the Key to the City, Athens, Georgia, and a proclamation for Richard Matthews Day, by the Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee. He has also served as subject matter expert on Q&A panels, and as a representative spokesperson on print, radio and television media.
Chef Matthews earned a Master of Science in Hospitality Administration from Florida International University in 2010, while maintaining a full-time career as a chef and instructor. He participated in many large scale culinary events such as the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. He was part of the teams who fed thousands of attendees at Kentucky Derby and the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament.
Chef Matthews enjoys sharing his passion for the culinary arts while helping build the future careers of those interested in undertaking a similar journey.
Chef Michael Flores Interiano
MBA, CC, CCI
Chef Michael is a 2015 graduate from Florida International University with a Master’s of Business Administration. I am a Cum Laude graduate from Johnson & Wales University, North Miami campus with a B.S. in Food Service Management and A.S. in Culinary Arts, 2010 and 2009, respectively.
He has been Food and Beverage consultants along with nine years of Back of the House and Front of the House, non-management and management experience, private catering and teaching private chef courses some of which are held at the Biltmore Hotel’s - Biltmore Culinary Academy in Coral Gables. He also has four years of teaching experience in secondary institutions such as Miami Dade County Public Schools, and post-secondary institutions such as San Ignacio College as an Instructor for the Hospitality and Culinary programs, and Mariano Moreno Culinary Institute as a Culinary Instructor. He also consults for private restaurants ranging in matters from administrative management to menu development and cost control.
Chef Michael has certifications as a Certified Food Safety Instructor/Proctor with Servsafe; a division of the National Restaurant Association. Certified Sommelier with the United Sates Sommelier Association, and Certified Culinary Instructor with the National Restaurant Association; and many more to come!