Finding Her Focus

Professional photographer and chef Poppy de Garmo earns her bachelor’s degree, fulfilling lifelong goal.

Poppy Squash Blossoms

Throughout her careers, from chef to photographer, Poppy de Garmo, ’17 (Online, BA in Liberal Studies) has let her work speak for itself.

That’s how she became a food stylist for the TV show Nash Bridges, which starred Don Johnson, after she barbecued an entire salmon—head and all—at a friend’s party because she had an extra one at home from her catering work. To de Garmo, the salmon marinated with oil and herbs was no big deal, but to the person at the party who had a contact at the show, it was impressive.

“That’s sometimes how things happen, you just kind of do your work and then somebody notices,”

Poppy de Garmo

She comes from a family of creative entrepreneurs, including her father who ran a New York City ad agency “like the original Mad Men,” she says.

This creative spirit led de Garmo to attend cooking school as a single mom at age 40, and then to a job catering for Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’ studio in Marin County. She went on to work at Bon Appetit Magazine where she assisted the advertising department with food presentations and preparing luncheons for advertising agencies.

She rediscovered her passion for photography, an avocation which she shared with her father in a home darkroom, when her grandchildren were born, and now runs a studio in Santa Cruz. She recently showcased a collection of seascape images at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz.

It was not always easy to fit studying for her degree into her busy schedule, but the effort to achieve her lifelong goal of earning her bachelor’s degree was worth it.

The online program was ideal for her because of its flexibility and she received the same kind of support from her professors that she’d had while attending college more than 30 years ago, before leaving school to get married and start a family.

Her final project at Antioch let her revisit the culinary arts, and specifically organics, which were a focus of her catering company before organic was readily available. The presentation included photography, writing, and research about organic farms in California.

Now that she has earned her bachelor’s degree and has seen that it’s possible to fit in studying while keeping up with her busy schedule, de Garmo is considering earning her master’s.