Marine Corps Veteran Rensford Abrigo is filling a position left by Chris Dunham and is now the new Campus Dining executive chef.

Abrigo studied at the Culinary Institute of Las Vegas. He then worked in Las Vegas for nine years at Ceasar’s Palace, the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, Aureole, Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons and the Cheesecake Factory, among others. 

Abrigo joins Executive Chefs Michael Albright and Ken Kline at campus dining.

Video by Jared Smith

“I grew up on a 110-acre farm, so food has always been something that we do,” Abrigo said, referencing his childhood in a census-designated community east of Baltimore.

Before coming to Cal Poly, Abrigo worked for food service provider Sodexo in Ohio, then at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Abrigo applied for the open position six months after touring Cal Poly with his son, who is interested in studying engineering at the university, Abrigo said.

Abrigo said his specialty is American cuisine and that he is “a steak-and-potato type of guy,” but he said he has also traveled to France, Australia, Japan, China and South Africa to learn how they cook food.

“We want to do a little bit of everything. I think the great thing about me and Chef [Albright] is we want to do what everybody wants,” Abrigo said. “We have the talent here. We have the knowledge here. We have the experience here.”

Big changes

Albright, who has worked at Cal Poly for eight years, said big changes are coming to campus dining.

“You’ve seen the baby steps,” Albright said. “There’s no roadblocks here. We’re going to do what’s best for campus — best for the community.”

A remodel of the Avenue scheduled to occur after Vista Grande is completed will allow the cooking crew to safely cook more, Albright said. The current kitchen in the Avenue is 60-years-old and was designed to feed 5,000 people, not 25,000.

A nationwide change in campus dining to offer more vegan and vegetarian food is leading to more fresh and sustainable foods, Albright said.

Albright said he looks forward to learning from Abrigo, who has an educated background to match with Albright’s background of working up the culinary ranks since he was 12-years-old. Abrigo in turn said he is excited to teach his skills to everyone, from other chefs in dining to students he would like to have cooking competitions with.

Both said the team at dining is great to work with.

“It’s a lot of fun working here,” Albright said. “It’s a collaboration. Not just one guy saying, ‘this is what we do.’”

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