Lasting Purpose in Culinary Nutrition
Bachelor of Science in Culinary Nutrition
Nicholas Angel grew up a long way from Life University’s campus in Marietta, Georgia, but he found a home in the Culinary Nutrition program. “What led me here to Life University is that I’ve always had this passion for food, and food has always saved my life, in every point of my life,” Angel said. A native of Colombia, Angel emigrated to the U.S. after his family’s fortunes took a downturn. “We used to go to nice, fancy restaurants and stuff like that,” he recalled during a conversation this summer. “There was a time that we lost everything, and then I remember — I was in a private school, really expensive, and I started selling McDonald’s burgers at school. I used to make bank doing it.”
From there, the young entrepreneur advanced to selling frozen pizzas to help make ends meet. Angel and his mother eventually moved to the Atlanta area, where relatives already lived. Angel brought less than $4,000 on the journey, and after buying a car, only $70 was left. At first, LIFE wasn’t on his radar. “People were talking about LIFE, and I always liked this holistic mentality,” he said. “I couldn’t afford LIFE at the beginning, so I started at Chattahoochee Tech, and I started working as a server and bartender until I had enough money to pay the school.” LIFE’s mission, its philosophy of Vitalism and 110-acre campus were among the reasons Angel decided to transfer.
“Have you ever seen Harry Potter? When Harry goes to Hogwarts, everybody’s like a magician, right? Here I feel the same,” Angel said. “I see the lake, the Treehouse, everything’s green. I love studying in those places … the green part of LIFE — it’s my Hogwarts.” Angel originally enrolled in the Dietetics program, but soon discovered that Culinary Nutrition was a better fit. “Dietetics is really — it’s an awesome career, but it’s more clinical,” he explained. “I also like the artistic part — I want to create with my hands, create food and joy. And I feel like, in Culinary Nutrition, I don’t have to be in an office every day. I can be outside, everywhere.”
Now preparing to graduate, Angel is still a businessperson. He teamed up with a cousin, Lucas Angel — an established restauranteur in metro Atlanta — earlier this year to open D’Cuban Café Market at the Marietta Square Market. The dining and shopping venue, located in a reclaimed warehouse alongside the city’s railroad tracks and historic Marietta Square, opened its doors in March 2019.
Angel said he risked it all — including the money he had saved for tuition — to launch D’Cuban Café Market. In addition, he imports coffee directly from a small village in Colombia and distributes it to local restaurants. “There are like 95 families there,” he said, describing the mountain village where the coffee beans are grown and harvested. “There’s a little school. There’s a couple, like 30, 25 kids that go there. Sometimes they don’t have money. They don’t have money to buy shoes or pencils or nothing. So I send money to the school.”
Three other LIFE students work for Angel and his cousin at D’Cuban Café Market. “If we win, they win, that type of mentality. And one of them told me that the job was really helping him and his family because, thanks to that job, he was paying to his loan,” he said, struggling to describe how he reacted. “I’ve never felt that way, like — satisfied, meaning, I don’t know. Like I was doing something meaningful. It’s more than getting money, but like, creating something.”
If given the opportunity to speak with prospective students, Angel said he would tell them, “Life University has a more green perspective than other universities. It’s more connected to the being — to the self, the person. They’re not only teaching you, they’re guiding you. So it’s more like a pathway … the University gets more connected to the student, in my opinion, than other places that you just go, take a test and get your results.”
Angel said “everything” he has learned at LIFE is relevant to his current and future businesses, including safe food handling practices, the shelf life of products, the best ways to bring new items to consumers and how to create menus tailored to individuals’ health and dietary needs. Most importantly, he said, LIFE has taught him, “the spiritual part of making it, how it’s prepared – we prepare it with love.”
“It’s not what you want; it’s what you need,” he added, speaking of the sacrifices he has made for his education and career. “For example, when I wake up in the morning, what I want — if I’m honest with myself — is being at home watching Netflix. That’s what I really want. But I need to come here, take science classes and then go to the restaurant. It’s what I need.”
Looking ahead, Angel said, “My main goal, at the end, it would be being happy. I do everything with fun. If I’m in a relationship with a girl, it has to be fun. If I’m in a job, it has to be fun. If there’s a point in life when I have a bunch of restaurants and it causes me stress, and I’m not happy, I will sell them. In the end, I will try to get a balance where — you need money to survive, of course, in this world — but I don’t have to be rich. I just have to be secure and just having fun.”
Faces of LIFE is a story campaign that showcases members of the dynamic LIFE community, including faculty/staff, students, alumni and health science professionals. Interested in being featured or nominating a candidate? E-mail Natalie.Esparza@LIFE.edu. Read more Faces of LIFE stories.