How did you become interested in your major?
When I was a child growing up, my grandparents would visit me when I didn’t have school and my parents were both working. At lunchtime I would always help her make lunch; more often than not it was Kraft Mac & Cheese. When I became a teenager I discovered the Food Network on a Sunday morning. The first person I saw was Giada and I remember her making rigatoni with butternut squash and shrimp. Immediately I wanted to try and make that. From then on, I kept watching the Food Network to get some recipes to try for my family. Soon I was designated the duty of making dinner for my family because I was always the first one home from school.
Summer of freshman year in high school, I got a job at a small fried chicken operation that shared space with a gas station. It was then I decided that the culinary field was a possibility for me. My junior year of high school, I decided to spend part of my day at the local technical school and participate in the culinary and pastry arts program. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t want to go to the tech center and learn something new from my chefs. After school, I would make dinner, do my homework, and then browse the Internet to learn as much as I could about food. I watched videos of Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, Raymond Blanc, Grant Achatz, Rene Redzepi, Ferran Adria, Anthony Bourdain, and many others like them. I did that every night for two years, absorbing as much as I possibly could. Food had become more than a hobby; it became a deep-seated obsession that I couldn’t get my fill of.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue this career?
I’d have to say it was my technical center chefs—Joe Carmolli, Jill Landman, Cheryl Adkins, and Di Middleton. These chefs gave me the courage, knowledge, and basic skills to begin my foundation to build on here at the CIA. Also I must say that my parents helped influence me because if they didn’t have me make dinner every night after school and give me the chance to start experimenting on recipes with them, I probably would not have had the desire to become a chef.
Why did you choose the CIA?
I choose this school because not only can it give me a foundation on which to develop my skills, but it also goes above and beyond what is needed, showing me how to run a kitchen or a business, and how to make food to the highest of standards. Also, the school gives me the opportunity to network with high-profile chefs, work with them, and learn as much as I can from them. These two reasons alone are more than enough reasons to come to the CIA.
What do you like best about the CIA?
I enjoy the instructors the most because not only are they prevalent on campus and up-to-date with food trends and ideas, they push students to do more than just their best and help them succeed. The instructors also teach how to operate as a team in the kitchen—not be completely dependent on yourself but depend on others to help you achieve the common goal.
What are your career goals or plans right after graduation?
I plan to go around the country and hopefully the world, and work with chefs such as Sean Brock, Joseph Lenn, Thomas Keller, Melissa Kelly, and others like them to absorb as much information and technique as possible while developing my own style of cuisine. Eventually I hope to either run or co-own a restaurant of my own that displays my philosophy of farm-to-table dining by growing much of its food on-site.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending the CIA?
If you are serious about food and becoming a serious chef, this is the place to be. The chefs and faculty are here to arm with you the knowledge, skills, and drive to go forward from this school and make something of yourself within this industry. There’s a reason so many big name chefs today in America such as Grant Achatz, Michael Voltaggio, Anthony Bourdain, Cat Cora, Michael Symon, Roy Choi, and many others are graduates of this school. They all came to the CIA to become great chefs and wanted to put in the work to get to where they are.