Michael Cordúa

Rice MBA for Executives Class of 2008

This personal philosophy carried chef and entrepreneur Michael Cordúa ‘08, owner of Cordúa Restaurants, through a brilliant career and then a choice — at the height of his success — to return to school.

The decision was made as Cordúa’s business flourished to six (now eight) critically acclaimed restaurants. He recognized that in order for the company to continue growing he needed to gain sharper and more current skills. The choice was simple. “If I’m going to do it,” he says. “It’s going to be Rice. If people know that I have an MBA from Rice, then they know I’m not just a cook. It changes my credentials.”

“It was rejuvenating and invigorating to be a part of the best and the brightest,” Cordúa reminisces. Even wearing a backpack again created a feeling of renewal and purpose. “There is a hope and willingness; to put yourself through it, there must be.”

The question remained: what did an established leader who already understood how to capitalize on opportunities take away from the rigorous curriculum in the program? The specific knowledge he sought, yes. But something else he hadn’t anticipated: relationships. “We [the company] became an unofficial case study. It felt like having the best board of directors surrounding me.”

Drawing on the experience of classmates from diverse companies, countries, and cultures, Cordúa seized the real-world lessons and friendships that developed over the course of two years, including those with faculty, who created a safe environment to discuss challenges and solutions. “You never leave the school. I feel I can go back there any time, ask for anything, and that I will be well-received.”