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Chef Bios

Michael Hodgins

Michael Hodgins


Sustainable Foods Systems/Café @ Rio

Michael Hodgins comes from humble beginnings in the restaurant industry. At 15 years old, he began washing dishes at a country club in upstate New York. Spending many hours in the club kitchen would prove to be the spark that ignited his passion for food. In the ensuing years, Michael held various positions in the culinary field across the U.S., from cook through executive chef.

In 2004, Michael developed a serious interest in serving sustainable foods. He moved back to the Valley of the Sun and began locating sustainable farmers, ranchers and artisans, debunking the notion that “nothing grows in the desert.”

Michael thinks that this provides the winning formula: Buying from local farmers who use sustainable practices will yield the freshest, most flavorful products available.
Michael also believes that, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life!”

Chef Brooke Toney

Chef Brooke Toney

Sustainable Foods Systems/Café @ Rio

Food has been Brooke’s passion, since she was a little girl cooking for family and friends. Brooke grew up in southern Oregon, and relocated to Arizona in the mid 90s to attend the Culinary Arts School at Scottsdale Community College. She has been in the restaurant industry for 21 years.

Brooke began her restaurant career working in small inns and bed & breakfasts in the Pacific Northwest. After graduating from culinary arts school, Brooke worked in a variety of kitchen positions including garde manger, bakery, line cooking, catering, assisted living and management. She also offered private cooking and baking lessons.

Brooke began working for Rio Salado College in June of 2005. The last 4 years she has served as a dual enrollment culinary arts instructor for Rio Salado’s incarcerated re-entry program. According to Brooke, “Educating our community on sustainability and the consumption of foods that are less processed is vital if we want our future generations to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.”


Chef Benny Leach

Sustainable Food Production Systems/Café @ Rio

My family was originally from a very small town in Oklahoma called Heavener. My parents headed West to look for better jobs and ended up in Willcox, Ariz. We later moved to Arrowhead Ranch in the northwest Valley, where I learned being close to the land and raising your own food tasted better than anything in a store.

I worked at fast food restaurants in high school, learning how to expedite orders quickly. Years later I enrolled in Scottsdale Community College's culinary program. While earning my associate degree, I began working part time as a garde manger making salads and soups in the cafeteria. Eventually, I worked my way up to be the food service manager at SCC.

After transferring to Maricopa Skill Center I had a chance to teach pastry techniques. Now, working as a chef instructor at Rio Salado has brought all of those years of experience under a focus of sustainability, a concept that brings everything full circle.