Collins and Rose Float Alum Works Magic at Disney
- Hometown: Brea
- Major: Hospitality Management
- Class Of: 1983
“ “Rose Float was integral to the overall learning experience for not only me, but any student involved in it because it is so diverse in its function. It really allows people to expand beyond who they are and what they can do.” ”
There’s always a sprinkling of magic in Michele Gendreau’s work, but that’s to be expected considering the company she’s with.
Whether it’s the sweet task of dessert tasting, developing a signature dining experience or working on a top-secret project, Gendreau’s role as the general manager of food and beverage for Disney California Adventure Park keeps her active in a number of roles —that’s fine with her.
“I like the diversity of activity,” Gendreau says. “I do not need to do the same things every day. I’m a person that likes to be involved in multiple projects and have impact.”
An alumna of The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Gendreau leads about 2,900 cast members in the handling of all the food and beverage needs of visitors at California Adventure.
It’s the latest chapter in a successful career in the hospitality industry that began at Cal Poly Pomona.
Born in Great Falls, Mont., Gendreau moved a lot growing up. Her dad, a mechanical engineer, followed his career all over the country. By the time Gendreau was ready for college, nearby La Verne, was her home.
Gendreau entered Cal Poly Pomona in 1979 as an accounting student, but soon realized it wasn’t the best fit.
Already working in the food service industry as a training manager for an Arby’s franchise, she was attracted to the engaging and varied roles offered through the hotel and restaurant management program. She quickly signed on.
Gendreau is the first to admit that while her schooling helped give her the tools she needed to work in the hospitality industry, Cal Poly Pomona’s Rose Float program provided the foundation for her success.
“Rose Float was integral to the overall learning experience for not only me, but any student involved in it because it is so diverse in its function,” Gendreau says. “It really allows people to expand beyond who they are and what they can do.”
She joined the Cal Poly Rose Float program in her first quarter. It was the start of a life-changing experience.
“I was immediately absorbed into a project that had a definitive goal, a timeline and it allowed for creativity,” Gendreau says. “I could learn different things. How to weld, and grow flowers, and it allowed me to meet new people, too.”
Gendreau quickly moved into a role as a student leader with the Rose Float program, remaining an active member until graduation.
Prior to joining Disney, she served as the director of dining services for Spartan Shops, Inc. at San Jose State University. She also served as the manager of dining services at the University of Southern California.
Her career with Disney began in 2006 when she became the director of Concept and Product Development at Walt Disney Park & Resorts.
Today, she remains connected with Cal Poly’s Rose Float program as a member of the Cal Poly Pomona Alumni Association Rose Float Chapter and volunteers her time to the program.
“All the things I’ve done in my career are really important, and they make up who I am in total, but I think even today my involvement with Rose Float on the board as an alumni and helping students is very pivotal to my success,” Gendreau says.