Alison Reed – Alumni Bio

Alison Reed ’04
“I feel like having the CIA on your résumé really makes a difference. People are impressed when you tell them you went there. I made the best friends that I’m still in contact with from all over the place and from all different walks of life.” —Alison Reed ’04 (photo credit: Elizabeth Parker)

Major: Baking & Pastry Arts
Job Title: Pastry Chef
Location: Shawnee, KS

Baking from the Heart

Kansas native Alison Reed grew up in the nation’s heartland, and it was clear early on that baking was close to her heart. “Every holiday was a big celebration,” says Alison. “My mom and I would make a themed cake and my grandma would make something from scratch.” Alison enjoyed being in the kitchen but never thought of it as a career. “I went to Kansas State to study fashion marketing but left after one semester,” she recalls. “I was watching the Food Network a lot in those days and thought ‘I could do that.’”

Alison enrolled in some cooking classes at the local community college to get her feet wet. “I started doing some research into cooking schools but most only offered certificates. I wanted a degree,” she says. “I looked into The Culinary Institute of America and arranged a visit to the campus. I was impressed with the school and thought the program was a good fit for me.”

Indeed it was. “The CIA was an amazing experience, especially meeting the chef-instructors from all over the world and working in the Apple Pie Bakery Café,” she says. “Probably my greatest experience was my externship at Farallon in San Francisco with Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti. She was such an inspiration and has since become a mentor. I have all of Emily’s books, my favorite of which is Passion for Desserts.”

After graduation, Alison moved to Washington, DC to work at the Indian fusion restaurant Indebleu before moving on to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for a two-year stint. Ready to expand her repertoire, Alison became the pastry chef at Café Saint-Ex, where she worked for five years. In January 2011, she was hired as pastry chef at Ripple, the 120-seat modern American restaurant in the Cleveland Park section of the city. A year later the business expanded next door with a gourmet market called Sugar Magnolia.

Alison looks back fondly on the CIA and uses lessons learned in the kitchens and classrooms on a daily basis. “One of the greatest lessons was how to work with a variety of personalities and ages from different backgrounds in a fast-paced environment,” she explains. “It’s like real life work experience. I was a group leader and it wasn’t always easy; I wasn’t always well-liked. For most of my career I worked alone, but I now have a staff and that experience I gained at the CIA is something I use every day.”

On top of that valuable experience, Alison has also benefited from the CIA’s stellar reputation in the industry. “I feel like having the CIA on your résumé really makes a difference. People are impressed when you tell them you went there. As a CIA graduate, if you stick with it, you can live out your dreams.”

After nine successful years in the nation’s capitol Alison returned home to Kansas. She now teaches baking and pastry at Johnson County Community College and at the Olathe Public Schools Culinary Arts Program.

Check out Alison’s online demo on NBC!