Bobby Mitchell has spent more than 30 years in the culinary industry, running Putting on the Ritz, one of the region’s largest event catering companies, and working at Ma’s Kettle, his mother’s Savage restaurant.
He credits Howard Community College (HCC) with giving him the foundation and business skills he needed to start his career.
“I went to HCC many years ago from 1978 to 1980,” he said. “It was convenient and a great start, close to home. And it gave me a good working background to start and grow my business.”
At the time, HCC did not have the thriving culinary and hospitality program it has today, Mitchell said. Even if it did, Mitchell said he probably wouldn’t have enrolled. At HCC, he was focused on getting his associate degree in business.
When he graduated, Mitchell worked for a few different companies. He decided to change careers when one of those companies asked him to move out of Maryland. In 1983, he went to work at Ma’s Kettle, which his mother, Mary Ann Mitchell, started in 1976.
“I helped her out there through high school, doing dishes and cleaning up after school,” he said. “Then after college, I began helping with the catering.”
As catering requests grew, Mitchell said he saw potential for bigger events. He launched Putting on the Ritz a few years later, and the company is now one of the area’s most sought-after caterers for weddings and corporate events.
Mitchell, who previously served on the Howard Community College Educational Foundation (HCCEF) board of directors, has watched the campus grow since his time as a student.
“When I was there, we had the gym building and the L-shaped building (now the James Clark Jr. Library Hall),” he said. “That was pretty much it. It’s amazing the difference and how much it’s grown.”
Still, he said, HCC’s collegial atmosphere has remained the same.
Mitchell recalled placing second in an HCC ping pong tournament and attending on-campus movies after class with fellow students.
“We had a good time, and it was a great social experience,” he said. “While not quite campus dorm life, it did give you a feeling of belonging.”
And most importantly, HCC is still an affordable place for students to further their education, he said.
“It is invaluable to have a chance at a college education that’s affordable to everyone,” Mitchell said.
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