Five questions with Tony Ouraz

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Tony Ouraz, hospitality professor at Lansing Community College

Tony Ouraz, hospitality professor at Lansing Community College

What brought you to East Lansing?
Well, I have an interesting story to tell you. I was born here. My parents went to MSU – ’66 and ’68 – to get their masters MBA, and I was born here. They lived in Spartan Village, actually. They went back to Turkey when I was one year old, and I came here 20 years later and I’ve been here 26 years. So, what happened is I came here for college because I’m a U.S. citizen by birth and I decided to stay and get a job at MSU and I’ve been with MSU almost 20 years now. I have master’s degrees, so I teach hospitality classes at LCC. That’s what I do. That’s why I’m in East Lansing.

Have you ever wanted to go anywhere other than East Lansing?
No, not really. I enjoy East Lansing because the world comes to me. I meet different people everyday, especially in the food business.

What’s it like being in a college town, but not actually being in college?
Well, let me put it this way for you. Every year I get older, and every year, you guys stay the same age: 18-22. Again, I enjoy living four seasons here, especially in Michigan, not like Florida or southern states that have only all heat and humid, and it’s a very diverse, very entertaining area. Granted, East Lansing downtown is not very entertaining and the law enforcement is very tough on you guys. It’s just a beautiful campus wonderful football team and basketball team and everything is just here. Everything comes to me.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
About here or Turkey? I would say Turkey. Here’s a funny part: wearing our MSU sweatshirts. My sister, my brother and myself would be taking pictures in Turkey and people would look at and say, “What does MSU stand for?” and I always remember wearing MSU paraphernalia because my parents went there and people always looked crazy at us, but I will always wear it.

What is your definition of success and have you achieved it?
My career, my job, is serving people, servitude, and taking care of people. I enjoy meeting their needs. I enjoy anticipating their needs. Food service has a bad reputation because you work with moods here. If you’re in a bad mood, the food is bad that day. You break up with your boyfriend, your girlfriend or you get a bad grade, and the food is bad that day. Everyone takes his or her frustration out on the food. That’s where I come in to soften the blow a little bit, to understand, and I don’t take it personally, just helping people out and taking care of their needs, because at the end of the day I’m a caretaker. We all get paid, yes, but it’s about that you love something and the way you do it and you get a “thank you” for it. It’s priceless.

-Danielle Chesney

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