Andrew Belen ’15
Major: Baking & Pastry Arts Management
Hometown: Chicago, IL
How did you become interested in food?
Baking is the fuel for my passion. I love that you can create artwork from chocolate simply by tempering it. The incredible strength and flexibility helps create jaw dropping show pieces. Then there’s cake, where you can express your creativity endlessly on your white canvas. Taking care of people, making people happy, and receiving the five star quality approval is what I’m after. Having the talent to bake and cook has its perks; you get to bring joy to people with your art, passion, and food. Plating up desserts under a time crunch; it’s such a rad adrenaline rush you can’t get anywhere else and I love it.
Who most influenced you?
Tradition was my biggest influence. I’m Filipino, and food was ALWAYS the mainstay of any get together. My family believed food was something to respect, and savor. My grandma on my mom’s side was the sous chef at a Marriot hotel, and my uncle on my dad’s side was a chef for the Navy. So, I was sort of brought up with food being the number one focus.
Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
I had to sacrifice an amazing work crew at Michael’s, and of course leaving my family, friends, and car behind!
Do you have a previous degree/career?
I worked simultaneously at a bakery near my house as a pastry cook and at Michael’s as a sales associate and cake demonstrator. The two jobs gave me both the customer service skills I needed and the back of the house pastry production that I loved.
Why did you choose the CIA?
Simply put, I chose the CIA because it’s the best. There’s simply no question about it. The amount of knowledge you can gain from all the chefs that work here is incomparable and unmatched.
What do you like best about CIA?
The campus itself is just drop dead amazing. The history behind the campus, from the programs to the buildings, is quite interesting. When you walk through the halls of Roth Hall, you can feel the passion; both in the food and the people. The chefs take great pride in their profession, as we do in our education, and we are all connected in a melting pot of food. Rather than going to school with a bunch of people who want to be nurses, bio- chemists, or space engineers, we’re here to become the new, fresh generation of chefs, and pastry chefs. Everyone here has a goal, passion, and idea of what they want to get out of the programs the CIA offers.
What are your career goals/plans?
My goals are sort of puzzle pieces in the air not yet formed into a concise picture. I definitely want to work under well respected chefs in the industry before stepping foot into a personal project that I would like to take on. I have two options that I’m currently working on; opening up a French themed pâtisserie with classic red wood floors, industrial lighting, a huge French chalkboard menu with a filigree border, an open deck patio, and organic farm to table quality pastries. Another concept is on the other side of the pastry spectrum—a dessert night bar! It would be something upscale, chic, modern, and contemporary, serving up plated desserts with an international, inspirational flare. Possibly multi-level!
Any advice for prospective students?
I have a few mantras that I live by when it comes to advice. The absolute best advice that I can give is just do what you love, and love what you do. Your passion, drive, and commitment will take flight and lead the way. Bring your A-game each and every day, no excuses, and no exceptions! There will be day where you are broken down to near crumbs, and at times you may even want to throw in the towel and give up. You need to be strong enough to say, “I’ll try harder chef.” They will encourage and inspire you to be even stronger than you were before. You’re here to become a leader, and a true visionary in this industry.