How did you become interested in food?
I have been cooking since I was five years old out of necessity. My parents were divorced and my mom had to work long days to support three kids, so we were taught to look after ourselves. I would often come home from school and thumb through my mom’s cookbooks and try new interesting things. When I was nine, with the help of my mom, we had guests over for a dinner party that I did the majority of the cooking for. Fast forward through a lot of years of home cooking—at 19 I decided to become vegetarian and only eat Thai food. With the help of a lovely lady at our local Asian market, a Thai vegetarian cookbook, and Google, I was able to embark on that path. I stuck with Thai for several months, branched into other Asian cuisines, then into everything. I stayed vegetarian for two years.
Did you previously have a different career path?
Yes. I went to school originally for film/TV. I graduated from Specs Howard School of Media Arts with a concentration in Film.
Why did you choose the CIA?
After about six years working in entertainment in the camera department, I became violently ill. Four months passed in anguish, with loads of doctor appointments with no answers about my ailment. I finally gave up and cried out for help; that cry was answered in a recollection of a conversation I had with a friend about Vedic meditation. So I began Vedic meditation, which comes from Ayurveda, an ancient Indian (Asia) science. Within a week of practicing, I was healed. With this miraculous turn, I began researching further. After several months, I had another universal, “God-calling” moment that pushed me towards cooking to help people. With my sights set on becoming an Ayurvedic chef, I researched where to go to learn it. There are several Ayurvedic schools but I figured I would be lacking the “chef” side of things. Two friends of mine are graduates from the CIA. Choosing the school was an easy choice, and it seemed divinely directed.
What do you like best about the CIA?
I appreciate the broad education in many cuisines and techniques. I like the integration of business in cooking. I really appreciate the wealth of knowledge available here through the faculty and the library. This place is a fountain of knowledge and connections.
Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities on campus?
Last year I was the president of the CIA Meditation and Wellness Club. I closed the club when I began externship and have not revived it. The club’s format was tough to keep up with, particularly since I was the only person educated in these things so I was the only one giving to the club. This year I am preparing to do a few workshops along the same vein of meditation and wellness.
What is your favorite dish to make?
This is like asking about a favorite song; there are too many options to have a favorite. What I enjoy the most is creating my own new vegetarian dish. I like employing my latest tricks or new flavors into bigger meals to see how I have evolved as a cook.
How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
I feel that CIA has given me a fair window into the business side of food. There is a great emphasis on the education and from the chefs about the business aspect. I have an understanding of it but I do not believe I will fully understand or be intimate with the business practice until I am out in the industry operating within a restaurant and branching into my own projects.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned while at the CIA?
Trust yourself. There are many ways to get the same result. Keep your mind open. You (or anyone, for that matter) are not always right. There is no one right way. Be accepting.
What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
I plan to continue my education in Ayurveda and nutrition after I graduate. I believe my path in life is to help people heal and become the best versions of themselves. I aim to accomplish this through mind, body, and spirit wellness to help evolve man into what may come next.
What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
Be passionate about what you are doing, be sure you are working towards something bigger than yourself, and be active in your pursuits.