27 Great Stories from Culinary Couples Who Met at the CIA
Food is love, so it’s not surprising to find out that many of our graduates found their soul mates while attending the CIA. Here are twenty-seven great stories of how they met!
1. Anthony and Lauren
We met in Bakeshop 2, Chef Coppedge’s Baking and Pastry Techniques class. Being in the same class, we quickly became friends and study partners and worked on multiple projects together. After a few months, we started dating, traveling to New York City on weekends, cooking crazy meals in the dorm kitchens, and just having fun despite our totally different backgrounds. Our internship semester was hard—Lauren was working in the city, and I was upstate at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, but by then I was pretty sure that I would marry her one day.
In October 2017, I surprised her by taking her to dinner at Blue Hill (a place that had and continues to inspire us both), and we got married on September 9, 2018. We’ve lived in NYC since graduating together and are both pastry sous chefs—Lauren at two-Michelin-star Gabriel Kreuther, and me at Épicerie Boulud. We both love what we do and support each other in our careers. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. It’s been a great journey so far, and we hope to continue to travel, cook, and learn together for the rest of our lives!
Advice to current students: Absorb everything you can at school, work for the best restaurant you can after graduating, listen, work hard, and push yourself. Everything else will fall into place.
2. April and Scott
Scott and I met through mutual friends shortly after I started at CIA in the spring of 2011. We started dating in the early fall, and he graduated with his associate degree and moved to Manhattan in October. Fast forward three years of being together, and I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and joined him in NYC! We lived there for another two years until we decided to make the move down south to work at Blackberry Farm, where I am currently the pastry sous chef. Scott is a sous chef at Blackberry Mountain. He asked me to marry him in the summer of 2017, and we were just married on New Year’s Eve 2018 (with many of our CIA friends in either the bridal party or attending!). We have so many great—and funny!—memories of our time together at CIA.
Advice to current students: Find a mentor and ask them to push you every day. Have your mentor set goals for you and strive to achieve them. Through the challenges, you will find that you will never stop learning, and your knowledge and passion will continue to grow. And wake up every day with a refreshed mind and a positive attitude! No matter how yesterday was you are the one who dictates your day today.
3. Baylee and Logan
Logan and I met our very first week at CIA! We had mutual friends who introduced us, and the rest is history. Our CIA journey began together with each of us in different programs: me, baking and pastry arts, and Logan, culinary arts. Our mutual passion for the food industry always gave us something to bond over and talk about. We went to Boston, MA for our internships, where I worked at Fenway Park, and Logan at the Four Seasons. We got to experience the “real” world for a few months in one of the best cities in the country. We also traveled together to Italy for the Italian cuisine concentration, where we experienced some of the best food and prettiest sites we had ever seen. We started a blog about our adventure together: www.theadventuresofthesweetcouple.blogspot.com.
Our CIA journey truly would not have been the same without each other. From start to finish, we had each other to lean on, cry with, and enjoy all of the “Yes, Chefs,” side by side.
After graduating with our bachelor’s degrees in food business management, we moved to Washington DC, a new city for the both of us! I am a pastry chef and Logan is working on becoming a front of house manager. It has been hard to make time for one another, but we both share a passion for food and each other that the CIA helped instill in us.
We are thankful—almost four years later—that the CIA brought us together. Coming from Massachusetts and Missouri, who knows if our lives would have crossed paths without the CIA!
Advice to current students: Focus on yourself and who knows what can happen! It is important that you find someone to confide in, whether it be a friend, chef, professor, or significant other. The CIA pushes you each and every day, but we promise that when it is over, you will be very proud of what you have done. Most important, find what makes you happy both inside and outside the kitchen.
4. Blayre and Brandon
I met Brandon two weeks after he started school at the CIA. I was an RA in Metz Hall, and he was a resident (scandalous, right?!). I knew as soon as I saw him that I wanted to get to know more about him, especially since I had gotten to know many of the residents in Hudson, and I’d never seen him before (plus, he was super cute)!
Long story short, I came on really strong, and he decided that I was worth it. He also decided that he wanted to become an RA, and we both worked in several residence halls during our time at the CIA.
Due to the way our programs were structured, our relationship was long distance on-and-off for over two years. It wasn’t easy, but it taught us how to be the strongest versions of ourselves, both together and separately. In 2014, after Brandon graduated, we decided to move together to his home city of Boston, where we lived and worked for three years, and also got engaged! We decided to move to my home state of Pennsylvania and got married in September of 2017. The rest is history!
We have been together for nine years now and married for almost two! Brandon currently works in FOH general management, and I run a custom cake design business. We live in Lancaster, PA and have two cat babies, Poppy and Persimmon. We are looking forward to teaching our future children “The CIA Way.” 😀
Advice to current students: Find yourself a partner who understands the rigorous schedule involved in working in the food and hospitality industry. It’s so important to have someone who understands, and who you can also celebrate with when you have time off together!
5. Brandon and Brett
Brett Rothstein and I met through a mutual friend. Brett took time after Banquets class to give me a tour of the campus and I immediately fell in love with the school and applied the next day. I got accepted shortly after, and a few months later I moved my life from Long Island and never looked back.
We started dating three weeks after my move-in date and we have been together ever since. We have used all the knowledge we gained from the CIA to begin working on our empire, combining different pieces of the hospitality industry into a conglomerate business. We got married in February 2018 and continue working towards that end goal!
Advice to current students: Always look toward the future and keep an open mind. You never know who or what might be the perfect opportunity for you. Sometimes your soulmate is the exact person you need to push you higher and further.
6. Ciana and Joshua
In the early 2000s, I was attending Texas A&M University and Josh was working at a grocery store in San Diego, CA decorating cakes. Our creativity and passion for baking brought us to The Culinary Institute of America in 2008. We had several of the same classes together and we became really good friends. I actually had a crush on his friend and would ask Josh to bring him to study groups, but it didn’t take long to realize Josh was the one I was supposed to be with.
After we graduated in 2011, we took a road trip from New York to Texas and my mom absolutely fell in love with Josh. We then hopped back in the car and road tripped it to San Diego to meet his family. They were incredible and so welcoming. I ended up flying back to Texas and Josh stayed in California. Knowing that we were going to have to do long distance was really difficult to live with, but with the grace of God, we were asked to open up a bakery in my hometown, so Josh moved to Texas three months later.
Being married means doing life together; our vows were for better or for worse. During the planning stages of our bakery/chocolate shop, The Chocolate Gallery, we were hit with some pretty devastating news—Josh had cancer.
It was the most terrifying time in our lives. It was really hard for me to imagine life without him. I just had to trust that the Lord wasn’t going to take him away from me now that I had found him. We both knew we couldn’t live without each other, so we decided to get married.
Josh was diagnosed with skin cancer on July 24, 2012. A few weeks later he was in surgery and had given me a list of all of his friends that I had to call because he said he couldn’t do it. So, I had to call all of these guys and say, “Hey! This is Ciana, you know…that girl Josh is dating? You’ve only met me once or twice, but Josh has cancer and we’re getting married in three weeks! Hope you can make it to the wedding.”
Fast forward seven years—Josh is still cancer-free. The Chocolate Gallery is continuing to grow, and we now have two beautiful children.
7. David and Donna
Donna and I met while working at Augie’s Pub on campus. I was the always-experimenting pizza guy and Donna was the happy-to-sell-my-creation cashier. We started dating on Valentine’s Day, 1991. I love to cook, and Donna loves to serve and bake. It was love at first bite. We continued dating through both of our graduations, Donna’s fellowship at the American Bounty, and my internship in Washington, DC.
We moved to California after my graduation in 1992. We both worked as cooks at the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. We got married on May 22, 1994, under the gazebo behind A dorm (Angell Hall); it was a beautiful Sunday morning with about 25 close friends and relatives in attendance. The CIA was sooo accommodating. Our honeymoon was in Bar Harbor, ME.
We continued working in California, then came back to the Hudson Valley, to Boston, and then to the Hudson Valley again, where we owned a restaurant and had two awesome boys, Zach and Jake. We now live in Bar Harbor with Zach, our youngest (age 13). Our oldest son is attending SUNY New Paltz and is a year away from being a mechanical engineer; we’re so proud. Donna and I are still very active in the culinary arts. She cooks for the local hospital and the YMCA and writes for a small-town newspaper. I am executive chef and director at a retirement community. We love our lives together and will always have a place in our hearts for the CIA!
Advice to current students: If you love your food career, you have to stick with it through the good and bad; just like a long-term relationship. If you can do both simultaneously, then you are living!! Learning about food and love are the best things in my life—family and career. Donna and I have been married 24 years as of this May. We are still excited to be with each other and to be doing what we love to do—culinary!!!
8. Erin and Amanda
The first time I saw her I was breathless; she was a goddess in chef’s pants and clogs. We met right after I came back from my internship in NYC and she had just come back from her bachelor’s concentration in Napa, CA. We would pass each other in the hall occasionally and would light up the room when she would pop into my kitchens to say “hi” to the chefs.
She was a beautiful enigma to me until I got a job at a local winery; then, to my surprise, there she was! Over the few months, we flirted back and forth but both of us were too shy to make the first move. The timing was just off; she was about to move to California to work for a prestigious winery in Sonoma and I still had at least two more years of my bachelor’s in New York. With heavy hearts, we both just chalked it up as “the one who got away.”
Two years went by, and it was time for me to go do my concentration at the Napa Valley campus. After a few months, a mutual friend reconnected us, and after a few dates, it was clear that life is better together. Looking back on it now, I tell people that when you meet your soulmate everything else just becomes background noise; it is as effortless and natural as breathing. We both sent timelines and geography to the wind. After that semester, we packed up the car and drove across the country together and settled in New York City, where we explore the city and its incredible food scene with our two huskies.
Advice to current students: Our best advice is to be authentic to yourself. If you love someone, don’t be scared to take a leap of faith.
9. Haley and Brady
Brady and I began our CIA journeys on the same entry date in June 2010, but we didn’t become close friends until after our internships in the fall of 2011. We shared all of the same classes during “L” Block, which allowed for us to spend a lot of time together before parting ways educationally, as he was a culinary arts student, and I was in the baking and pastry program.
Even though Brady persistently pursued a romantic relationship, I was hesitant to jeopardize our friendship and uncertain of the future as graduation approached. But love finds a way, and we started dating in September 2011, were engaged in September 2012, married in June 2014, welcomed our son in August 2015, and will celebrate five years of marriage this year.
After spending time in Charleston, SC immediately following graduation, we moved to Atlanta, where Brady now teaches culinary arts and serves as the FCCLA advisor at Paulding County High School. I utilize both my food science degree from the University of Georgia and my baking and pastry arts degree from the CIA as part of the research and development team in the bread division for my hometown-based company, Flowers Foods!
Advice to current students: Follow your passion and understand that it is okay to have more than one dream. You may see yourself working the line in a restaurant for the rest of your life, but there are so many other opportunities in the food and beverage industry and in hospitality. With me being from Georgia and Brady being from South Dakota, the CIA allowed us to see the world and live 90 minutes from one of the food capitals (some argue the food capital) of the world. For those at the Hyde Park campus, take advantage of living in the Hudson Valley—enjoy all four seasons, and day trip to NYC as often as you can! Brady and I dreamed of a family, and we found unique employment merging our love of food with more of a family-friendly schedule. You have one life—create and savor yours!
10. Jason and Erin
Erin and I met at the CIA at Greystone in the baking and pastry arts certificate program. We were one of the first classes to go through the program. We were also one of the first, if not the very first, CIA student couple to get married at Greystone in 1999!
After graduation and getting married, we were co-pastry chefs at the Brant Point Grill on Nantucket Island. Erin spent some time opening a cupcake shop and then a cookie shop. As we grew our young family, Erin left the food biz to pursue another passion, recruiting, which she does for Grammarly in San Francisco. She still loves to bake for family and friends.
I spent time at Chef Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn and George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. I’m now the chef/director of food services at Marin Country Day School, where I’ve led the way in school nutrition for the past 15 years. I’m also a leader in the CIA Healthy Kids Collaborative.
We have two amazing boys, Beckett (age 8) and Grant (age 14), and live in Marin County, California. We love visiting Greystone since we are so close! We are happily celebrating 20 years of marriage this April!
Advice to current students: Do what you love and do good in life. Take care of each other and our planet. Always find a way to pay it forward and to give back.
11. Katie and Shamil
We have been friends since the first week of freshman year because of his roommate, who was in my culinary class. Shamil took his internship in Washington, DC, as did I. We both went on to earn our bachelor’s degrees and started on the same date. Our paths continued to push us together as we both took a semester away in Napa Valley, where we fell in love with California wine country.
Fast forward…we graduated from CIA, Shamil headed to the Napa Valley to work for Cindy Pawlcyn, and I headed south to Asheville, NC to work for the Biltmore. Less than six months later, I had accepted a Manager-in-Training position at the CIA at Greystone—another push from the universe! We lived in the Napa Valley for just shy of four years, and it took us a large part of two years to finally figure out that we were meant for each other. It was the classic, “I’m going to tell my friends I like you but not tell you.” So frustrating! Hahaha.
Finally, we ended up going on a trip to Monterey (the most beautiful coastal town) to get away and be alone together and, ever since then, we have been by each other’s side. We currently reside in Greenville, SC and both work as managers for Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant. The CIA not only gave me a fabulous degree, but also a seven-plus-year friendship and the love of a lifetime!!!!
Advice to current students: Remember to follow your path. If it’s meant to be, as cliché as that sounds, it really does come together! Just like it did for us.
12. Lauren and Jonathan
We met in 2008; we were both getting our associate in culinary arts degrees. When I first met Jon, I could not stand him—I thought he was irresponsible and lazy. It wasn’t until we drove from New York to Omaha during our internship semester that I realized he wasn’t that bad. We both ended up in California for our internships and came to fall for each other. I realized Jon was nothing like I thought. He was a determined and talented young cook.
We started dating over internship, and when we came back to New York, we had a long discussion about how our relationship would not affect our classes. We made a point to barely talk during classes because we wanted to be taken seriously by our instructors. I’m pretty sure we didn’t fool them, but we did develop a wonderful knack for working together as a team.
Once we graduated, we moved to the Virgin Islands to run a restaurant owned by a friend of Jon’s family. That was the first time we lived together. Within a year, Jon was the executive chef, and I was the FOH manager. Our time in the Islands was probably the hardest thing we’ve ever been through. It was a real testament to how much we loved each other. We tell ourselves now that if we could get through island life in one piece, then we can get through anything.
In 2012, we moved back to the U.S., to Memphis, TN, my hometown, and got married. We ended up running another restaurant together, Jon as the executive sous chef and me as the FOH manager again. After several years in Memphis, we decided to move to Omaha, where Jon’s family lives. We’ve been here for several years now, and each year brings us closer together. We don’t work together anymore, and I do miss that, but we find other ways to connect. Jon works in corporate food service, and I am a hospitality instructor at the regional culinary school. We stay connected to food by gardening and canning in the summer and cooking for our friends and family. This may seem long-winded, but I have spent the past 10 years with this man. He has taught me so many wonderful things about love and myself. I am ever so grateful that fate brought us together at the CIA. Our time there will always have a place in my heart as the time I found true love.
Advice to current students: The first rule I lived by was “pay attention.” No matter what your experience is, you can ALWAYS learn something. The CIA will push your limits, but it should. You didn’t come to the best culinary school in the country to breeze through. Prepare yourself for class. If your chef says build a timeline, then do it! Every chef I had gave me a building block that gave me insight into the big picture, and I still pull out my notes from classes to refresh my memory. The truth is that you will get what you put into it. If you give it everything you have, then it will be rewarding. The last bit of advice I have for you is to spread love. You never know what your words mean to someone else. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
13. Miranda and Quentin
Quentin and I attended classes at the Hyde Park campus. Quentin is from Minnesota and studied culinary arts, while I was a baking and pastry student from South Jersey.
We met in one of the clubs on campus, CCF (Culinary Christian Fellowship), during our junior year. We dated for the last three semesters of school, and by graduation day, we were in love. One of our highlights during our time together at school was taking the Food, Wine, and Agriculture trip to France. It was an amazing experience!
After graduating, we both accepted jobs in Columbus, OH. During our time in Ohio, we got engaged and married. We spent four years living in Columbus, both working as restaurant managers. Most recently, we have moved back to the East Coast to pursue our dream of opening our own business.
Advice to current students: Take full advantage of all the resources CIA has to offer! Particularly, make connections and learn as much as possible from the chefs in each class. Take on extra projects, ask for advice, and take feedback. Your chefs will take you as far as you let them in your education.
14. Priscilla and Gerard
Jerry and I met through a mutual friend of ours. She was my roommate at the time, and she is still my best friend. She was my maid of honor, and Jerry and I are her baby girl’s godparents. Later, I was in cookies class, and I needed someone to be my taste tester. Of course, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to help with my homework. He obliged and that started it all. We spent a lot of time at school getting to know each other (after class and homework, of course!) Our first “rendezvous” was an all-nighter talking about ourselves and our goals while walking around campus and sitting on a bench looking over the Hudson. We met in July 2011 and got married in September 2015.
The CIA will always hold an amazing place in our hearts. Aside from teaching us everything we know and making us strong chefs, we found each other. We have been growing in our careers and working hard just like we were taught. We are in Austin, TX and looking to expand our family soon!
Advice to current students: Enjoy your time at this amazing school! Be open to the many friendships you will create; you are building a family of like-minded chefs. In a world full of non-CIA grads, sometimes it’s nice to share that bond and those beliefs. You get to learn from some of the best chefs in the world. Listen, ask questions, and write everything in your notebook. I look back on those notes and sometimes find myself re-learning so much.
15. Sean and Nicole
It was a cold November Friday night at the CIA. My classmates and I just finished dinner service at Ra. Me, the ramen concept we were running at the Innovation Kitchen in the intrapreneurship concentration. We headed towards our cozy townhouses (Point 6, to be exact) and had a party. When it was winding down and I was getting ready to leave, there she was: standing by the door, staring at us with beautiful hazel eyes, wearing a soft basil green sweater and light caramel brown slacks just tight enough to show off her curves. Her curly hair flowed with the cold wind that blew in the floral scent of the girl who stole my heart ever since that moment. I sat back down with the hopes of getting to know her better. Her name was Nicole Carey, she came from St. Louis, MO, and she was in the wine’s concentration. She had this amazing laugh that just made my heart smile every time I heard it. I knew I had to make her mine.
The rest of the night consisted of us laughing at each other’s jokes. No one else thought we were funny, but that didn’t matter, we were happy. The night ended with our wishing each other goodnight and hoping to see each other on campus more often.
The next time we met, it was November 18, 2017. I was at the gym stretching and then, there she was, barely breaking a sweat after her usual four-mile run. She walked up and started talking to me, and then blindsided me with, “Would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?”. I was completely stunned. In my mind, I was thinking that she wanted to just check out a restaurant as friends, as a fellow CIA student. Of course, I said yes, but it wasn’t until the end of the meal that I discovered it was officially a date. She asked if we should share a dessert and I said, “Only if you’re okay with sharing my cooties.” She said, “It is a date, after all.”
Needless to say, our first date was successful, and they haven’t stopped since. After we both graduated with our bachelor’s degrees, we moved to Dallas, TX to start our culinary journey together. Nicole is currently leading the line at Lucia, and I am a managing partner for Beto & Son. We have a four-year-old fur baby (the cutest Schnauzer you will ever meet) named Frank Sinatra. Now it’s only a matter of time until I turn my “date” from that Friday night into my “mate.”
The CIA has opened many career opportunities for us and introduced us to new business partners. But I am most grateful for the life partner I have gained and share my love with. I love you, Nicole Carey. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Advice to current students: Be close and kind to everyone you meet at the CIA; they can end up being your business partner, investor, mentor, or, most important, your life partner.
16. Tatiana and Derek
We met the first week at the CIA, during orientation. And we started dating two weeks after that. He was in the culinary arts program, and I was in the baking and pastry program. I took him to Peru for the Christmas of 2015, and he met all my family and fell in love with my country.
After our graduation ceremony, he pretended to want to take a picture in front of the wall in the Marriott Pavilion. I was trying to arrange my diploma, so the CIA logo was facing the front and, out of nowhere, I see all my friends taking pictures. That’s when I realized Derek was on one knee asking me to marry him!!! And of course, I said YES!
We got married on February 24, 2018, in a beautiful ceremony down in Peru. We live in New York, and we have a nine-month-old puppy called Lucuma! Derek works as the assistant manager for The Llama Inn, a Peruvian restaurant in Brooklyn, and I work for Charlotte Neuville Cakes and Confections.
17. Dante and Miyuki
Although they started school on the same day and moved in the same circles, it wasn’t until a Valentine’s Day party that Dante and Miyuki connected. They kept in touch while on externship—Miyuki at Stella in New Orleans, LA and Dante at Le Bernardin in New York City. “At the CIA, it’s your time to focus on your dreams and plot your future,” says Miyuki. She suggests that student follow their interests and take advantage of everything the school has to offer. “Go to every guest speaking event, volunteer to work, stage on the weekends—NYC is only a train ride away,” Miyuki explains. “We worked every weekend for free to get experience. You never know who you may meet that could change the trajectory of your career.” After working in New York City post-graduation—Miyuki at The Modern and Dante at Lupa—the couple fulfilled a long-held dream of working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. “It was a great experience and we loved working together,” says Miyuki. “Time went by, and we decided to move back east to Dante’s home state of Connecticut.” Growing up, Dante was surrounded by food. Dante’s father ran a successful pizzeria for 30 years in Bridgeport, CT. You could say that pizza was in his blood. In early 2017, Dante and Miyuki received a call from a developer in New Canaan, CT, who was creating the town’s first food hall, dubbed Pine Street Concessions. Two of the shops that opened in it on June 28, 2017, was Dante’s Pizza and Miyuki, an Asian noodle shop. “It’s a food court environment but with chef-driven food. We’re working so hard right now but it’s all toward a bigger picture,” Dante says. “This is just the beginning. We want to raise our family in Connecticut and maybe expand the businesses.”
18. Jack and Lan
Jack Cheng and Lan Nguyen Cheng met at Ming’s BBQ, Jack’s father’s restaurant, in Duluth, GA, and connected with the mutual love of food. “We wanted to attend school together and looked at the CIA’s Greystone campus,” says Lan. “But we decided Hyde Park was a better fit.” Lan attended for bakery and pastry arts and Jack pursued a degree in culinary arts. Lan’s last class in her program was in The Apple Pie Bakery Café making seven to nine batches of macarons every day, which amounted to nearly 800 cookies a day. After graduation, Jack got an opportunity to stage at Noma for a month. Lan returned home to Duluth as an engaged woman. She spent the next year developing a recipe for macarons that could withstand the humidity levels typical in Georgia. Lan then moved on to developing unique flavors like rose and lychee, raspberry lemonade, elderflower, and a unicorn shaped macaron filled with Fruity Pebbles. Her friends called her tiny space “the lab” and so, MacLab Bakery & Cafe was born. MacLab officially opened in January 2015, one month shy of the arrival of Jack and Lan’s daughter Madeleine. “Jack is the numbers man and streamlines our production for efficiencies,” says Lan. “We kept the bakery small because Lan wanted an intimate space where we can develop good connections with our customers,” says Jack. “Lan’s strengths are on the creative side while mine is more technical.” The Chengs hope to expand their macaron concept in the future.
19. Jonathan and Megan
“I saw Megan on the very first day of B block and said to myself, ‘That’s her. That’s the one,’” says Jonathan Pidgeon. “I was relentless and after a year, she agreed to go out with me.” After completing their bachelor’s degrees, Megan moved to the Napa Valley to work under James Beard award-winning pastry chef Nicole Plue. Jonathan spent time on the competition BBQ circuit, as a high volume off-premise caterer, and as executive chef of Blackfin Bistro in Key West, FL. “I finally convinced Megan to move to Key West and we got married on September 20, 2011,” says Jonathan. The couple opened Glazed Donuts. In their 800-square-foot space, they turn out 30-dozen yeast and cake donuts daily, serving both retail and wholesale clients. “Everything is made from scratch including the frostings, glazes, jellies, and even the sprinkles,” Megan says. “At the CIA, you learn product identification and how ingredients behave and interact. It might sound basic but that kind of knowledge is vitally important. All the raised donuts we make are affected by weather and humidity. I learned how to make adjustments to my dough to ensure a consistent final product.” Megan and Jonathan Pidgeon count on the experienced pool of talented CIA alumni. “By hiring a CIA graduate, I know they already have the foundation—an understanding of techniques and the importance of working cleanly and quickly,” says Megan. “In the end, a CIA grad will cost me less time and money to train. The nicest part about hiring a fellow alumnus is you know they care. It’s their chosen profession and they come with a diverse and varied background.” And the Pidgeons give back to their employees. “We close down every year in September with four weeks of paid vacation,” says Jonathan. “It allows everyone time to travel and recharge.
20. Laura and Todd
Laura and Todd Lyons, chef-owners of the Philly hot spot Love and Honey Fried Chicken, met at the Hyde Park, NY campus. Laura was the director of the Food Enthusiast Programs and Todd was a student in the Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate program. “At the time, the ACAP program had their classes in the downstairs kitchen of the Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine,” recalls Laura. “The chef-instructor invited different departments to lunch service. That was the first time that Todd and I noticed each other and there was chemistry from the get-go.” Todd completed his bachelor’s degree in culinary management and moved to Philadelphia to work for Aramark at Citizens Bank Stadium. The couple lived apart for a year before Laura moved there in2011.They married in November that same year. “Todd and I have a great partnership and we both thought we would work well together,” says Laura. “And we came up with the concept of Love and Honey Fried Chicken.” The couple raised investment funds and worked on plans for a year. “We got our approval to start building within 48-hours of submitting our application. We had every detail in place,” says Laura. “The planning board coordinator said, ‘I don’t think you guys realize how ahead of the game you are. Most people don’t have it all their ducks in a row.’ That preparation was a direct result of the lessons we learned at the CIA,” Laura explained. “Not a day goes by that we don’t use some part of our CIA education. Things you learn, like a sense of urgency and a sense of hospitality, become ingrained. There’s a saying in the hospitality business—you’ve either got it or not. You understand the overall concept and embrace the passion of mise en place. We appreciate the kind of education that the CIA supplied. There is no other place that even comes close.” One of the couple’s first hires was Caitlin Rodgers ’14. “When we saw the CIA on the application we thought that’s it. Here is someone who gets it,” says Todd. “We’re nearing the end of our first year in business, but we went into this venture planning to build the brand, expand, and spread the love.”
21. Mary and Richard
Love can happen anywhere, even in the CIA campus mailroom. “I was leaving the mailroom one day as Richard walked in,” says Mary Oreskovich about her first encounter with Richard Warner. “We locked eyes and I said, ‘What’s your name?’ Richard pointed to his name embroidered on his chef jacket. I turned red and felt so embarrassed, but we laughed. We started dating right before externship.” The two kept in touch while Mary was at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO and Richard was in Chicago at the Four Seasons. After graduation, Mary and Richard moved to Portland, OR and worked for four years. They had just decided to move to Mary’s home state of Colorado when they received an interesting offer to go to Murmansk Oblast, Russia and work at a fly-fishing camp on the Kola Peninsula near Finland in the Arctic circle. “We worked the season from spring through late fall. It was a great experience.” Returning home to Pueblo, CO, Mary and Richard opened the 38-seat Steel City Diner. “We ran the diner for seven years,” Mary says. “In 2005, we opened Hopscotch Bakery and had both eateries for a year and a half before we closed the diner,” Pueblo is known for their chilies and Mary and Richard regularly participate in the Annual Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival. One year, the couple decided to grill their popular signature burger with green chilies from the Steel City Diner at the festival. They got a great response. That led them to open Bingo Burger in 2010. They now have two locations, one in Pueblo and one in Colorado Springs.
22. Mike and Lindsay
Mike and Lindsay Cromartie lived across the hall from each other in the Rosenthal residence hall. They didn’t meet until Lindsay, completing an assignment on a tight deadline, ran out of printer paper and started knocking on doors. Mike gallantly ran up the hill to the bookstore to retrieve paper so Lindsay could finish her project. “Mike was six weeks ahead of me at school and continued on for a bachelor’s degree,” Lindsay says. “I completed my associate degree and applied to the Pastry Garden, a gourmet bakery located in Poughkeepsie. I was hired on the spot and worked there while Mike finished school.” The couple settled in Hendersonville, NC—Lindsay’s hometown—and both found work at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, an AAA Four Diamond Award-winning hotel. Mike enrolled in Biltmore’s manager-in-training program and gained management experience. A quick year working in Washington, DC to “test the waters” brought Lindsay and Mike back to the western mountains of North Carolina to put down roots. Mike went back to work at The Inn at Estate and Lindsay opened Gâteaux Cakes & Pastries in downtown Hendersonville. “The town has really exploded in recent years with younger people moving back into the area,” explains Lindsay. “There are a number of bakeries in town that have a nostalgic factor but none offered higher-end pastries and cakes for special occasions. Gâteauxis European-influenced on American classics.” “The CIA was the best place to grow and harness the passion I have for food and hospitality,” says Mike. “The number of techniques, the appreciation for quality ingredients, consistency and attention to detail, and a clean and organized kitchen are tools we learned that continue to play into the success of our business.”
23. Michael and Gabriella
Love, at first sight, does happen. She was new to campus, and he was returning from externship. They locked eyes at a friend’s apartment and their fate was sealed. From that moment on, Gabriella Rodriguez and Michael Baldwin were together studying, celebrating accomplishments, and supporting each other. Gabriella and Michael worked for the catering company, On the Marc, while in school. The couple found they worked seamlessly together and their magical collaboration of love, passion, and the drive to succeed was their path to the future. Prior to graduation, Gabriella and Mike drew up a business plan on the back of an empty pizza plate. It was a combination of their two personal favorites—pizza and skateboarding. After graduation, Mike traveled to Italy to learn from the masters. Then, the couple moved to Mike’s hometown of Harrison Township, MI. To date, they have hosted three Skate or Pie Pop-Up Dinners, that included artisan flatbreads and elevated street food surrounded by a full sensory experience with live art and music. Michael’s family is thrilled to have Michael and Gabriella home to join the family business, Baldwin Restaurant Group. Mike’s father CIA grad Jeffery Baldwin, Sr. runs the business with wife Rosemarie and son Jeffrey, Jr. The restaurant group includes J.Baldwin’s in Clinton Township and the newly opened Testa Barra in Macomb Township, MI. Mike and Gabriella are now co-chefs at Testa Barra.
24. Ouita and Chris
Love can happen anywhere, even when waiting in line to get your uniform on the first day of school. “It was November 1989,” recalls Ouita (pronounced wee-ta). “Chris and I were in the same group, got a chance to know each other, and became friends. This year we are celebrating 25 years of marriage.” After graduating, the two were working in East Hampton, NY when they drove across country to Santa Rosa, CA for a friend’s wedding. On the way back, they stopped in Kentucky and decided to stay. They opened the Holly Hill Inn followed by Wallace StationandMidway Bakery, all located in Midway, KY. Their next concepts, Windy Corner Market and Restaurant, two Smithtown Seafood restaurants, and Honeywood are located in Lexington, KY. The couple opened Glenn’s Creek Café at the Woodford Reserve Distillery where Ouita is the chef-in-residence. “Today, we have more than 200 employees and a talented management team. Ouita says it best, “In our business, we use our CIA education every day. We were older students with completed bachelor’s degrees attending the CIA to follow a dream. We learned how to write a business plan and read a P&L statement. I use my charcuterie class notes and culinary math skills to this day! Chris and I are a great team. He runs the business side while I’m in the kitchen. We feel so lucky to do what we love.”
25. Rachel and Charles
They were two chefs passing in the hallways but never met. Yet serendipity was on the horizon. Rachel graduated in the spring of 2003 and got a job working in the publications department at the CIA. Charles graduated in the fall of 2003 and moved to Boston to work at America’s Test Kitchen on the cookbook team. Rachel joined the same group in the fall of 2004, and voila, the two alums met and fell in love. Anxious to start their own venture, Rachel and Charles initially researched the idea of a food truck, but the red tape involved in obtaining permits quickly changed their minds. So they moved on to their next idea: sandwiches. “The location for Cutty’s, which is close to the original site of America’s Test Kitchen in Brookline Village, MA, became available so we grabbed it,” says Rachel. “The timing was not ideal. We had our first child in August and opened Cutty’s in February.” But, they made it happen! Cutty’s serves breakfast and lunch and specializes in the “spuckie,”—what Bostonians call a sub or hero. It’s a fennel salami, hot capicola, mortadella, hand-pulled mozzarella, and olive-carrot salad on ciabatta sandwich. The nickname “Spukie” comes from Spucadella, a local bakery version of a sandwich roll. Cutty’s also serves a vegetarian version with roasted eggplant, mozzarella, olive-carrot salad on ciabatta. “Our kids are now five and eight, and we recently took over the business next door to expand our footprint,” says Rachel. “The CIA certainly helped us in opening Cutty’s. The hard work, discipline, and mise en place we learned are essential to running a successful business. I think with a CIA education you get a solid foundation and a deep appreciation of techniques. The exposure to world cuisines and flavor profiles opens you up to a world of possibilities. Follow your curiosity.”
26. Robbie and Samantha
When your interest turns into a passion and your passion becomes your profession, you have the best of all possible worlds. Samantha Rensel was a manager at The Courtside Café in the CIA’s Student Recreation Center before the space transformed into The Egg. Robbie Rensel was the president of the Gourmet Society, which had an office in the same building. “I kept seeing Samantha and, being a guy, I tried to be charming and invited her to a Society meeting. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a big impression,” Robbie laughs. “It took me almost hitting her with the ball during a dodgeball game when I finally got her attention. We started doing homework together, Samantha joined the Gourmet Society, and we started dating.” While pursuing their bachelor’s degrees, Robbie was suddenly called home. His mother was seriously ill. Robbie took the next semester off to be with his mother during her last months. “Sam really helped me through that terrible time,” Robbie explains. Sam graduated in October 2009 and Robbie followed in March 2010. They got engaged and moved to Houston, TX. Robbie worked for Sur La Table and developed, from the ground up, a cooking school within his specific store. Sam worked as a personal chef for a family committed to a holistic and healthy diet. Robbie and Samantha soon decided to combine their businesses and formed Savory Celebrations in 2011. “Sam did it all,” Robbie says. “She started the company, came up with the name, and developed our mission statement of delicious healthy and holistic cooking. Not only are we caterers but we also hold cooking classes and do “Iron Chef”-style team building events for corporations.” Robbie describes them as a perfect match. “The things I’m bad at are easy for Sam and vice versa,” he says. “We’re cohesive and we complement each other. The best thing is we can share our passion together.”
27. Stephan and Patrick
Patrick Decker and Stephan Hengst were introduced by friends who felt they had so much in common. Stephan was working at the CIA as the director of communications and Patrick was about to graduate from the college. They became friends and as it turns out, they shared the kind of connection that eventually translated into a serious and long-lasting relationship. After many years together, they wished to marry but same-sex marriage was not yet a reality in New York. They happened on an opportunity, offered by the Netherlands, for couples to enter a contest to marry in Holland—where it has been legal since 2001—if they had at least one partner with dual U.S. and Dutch citizenship. Stephan, whose father is Dutch, was born in Holland, where he still retains citizenship. Patrick and Stephan, along with four other couples, were married by the mayor of Amsterdam during the city’s Pride Day Celebration. Today, Patrick is a digital product manager for Food & Lifestyle media at Scripps Networks Interactive and Stephan is an account executive with Media Copy based out of Philadelphia. The duo are co-founders of Big Gay Hudson Valley and Pink Stallion, organizations that promote LGBTQ local events, resources, and community in both the Hudson Valley and Philadelphia. “Our goal is to keep our community connected,” says Stephan.
Learn more about the CIA. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your true love too.