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Spotlight on Hospitality: MCHA Awards NRAEF Scholarship

Kristin Horton
November 21, 2022

Susanna Hoffman’s journey to a tourism degree began at Noodle Bar, in her hometown of Marina. The restaurant job she started at age 16 sparked an interest in hospitality, and she gained additional industry experience as a Monterey Bay Aquarium volunteer. Then, a high school counselor told Hoffman about hospitality and event planning courses at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

“Right away, I saw a career path for me,” she says.

Since then, Hoffman has interned in wedding planning, corporate events and incentive travel. She's networked with professionals at California Travel Association, IMEX America and Meeting Professionals International trade shows. This year, the college senior also earned a Monterey County Hospitality Association (MCHA) scholarship administered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).  

“I am very honored to win this scholarship. It feels like the hospitality industry is recognizing and validating the hard work I've put into my restaurant jobs, internships and classes,” Hoffman says.

MCHA’s education, advocacy and employee recognition programs reach back to the mid 1970s, when various Monterey Peninsula restaurant and hotel groups joined under one umbrella. The trade association expanded its focus to Monterey County’s wider hospitality industry in 1990. Since then, MCHA has worked with organizations like the NRAEF to promote student culinary programs, share scholarship opportunities, and support employees.

"Many people don't realize the range of jobs available in the restaurant industry. There are openings for servers and cooks, of course. But there’s also work in accounting, maintenance, marketing, human resources and other fields. No matter what your skill set, you'll find an opportunity,” says Teddy Balestreri, vice president of hospitality operations and community relations for Cannery Row Company. 

Balestreri has served on the boards of the National Restaurant Association and NRAEF, the California Restaurant Association, and MCHA. These industry organizations work together on behalf of the area’s hospitality and tourism professionals. Having that unified voice at the local, state and national levels was especially important when restaurants faced economic and operational challenges at the peak of the pandemic. 

Today, these organizations continue advocating for more than 24,000 employees in Monterey County’s hospitality industry.

"The people working in hospitality are your friends and neighbors, and they contribute so much to this community. We’re proud to provide scholarships that help students establish restaurant careers. At the same time, we’re proud to help employers address the needs and goals of a new generation of professionals,” says Balestreri.

From part-time and entry-level positions to high-profile roles with world-renowned brands, there’s a match for everyone.

"Hospitality has always been the industry of opportunity,” says Balestreri. “We have roles that suit a diverse mix of people, and there's a lot of upward mobility. When it comes to careers in hospitality, the sky is the limit.”

To explore high school and college hospitality programs, apply for scholarships, find a job fair, or build a resume, visit MCHA's career page at 

The Monterey County Hospitality Association ( is the trade association serving the local tourism industry with advocacy, education and employee recognition programs. For more information, visit or contact Kristin Horton at


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