Alitza Portuhondo – Student Bio
“With all of my scholarships and grants, the cost of getting a CIA education was around the same price of my state school, yet with a much higher recognition benefit.”
Major: Bachelor’s Degree in Food Business Management
Campus: Hyde Park, NY
Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, PA
How did you become interested in food?
I became interested in food at a very young age. During grade school, all the kids would talk about That’s So Raven and Kim Possible. I, on the other hand, would want to speak about the latest episode of Paula’s Home Cooking and Everyday Italian. The Food Network really opened my eyes to the food world, especially with the variety of chefs and cuisines. Personally, it was very relatable to see all the women in the cooking shows, as I was always raised with my mother in the kitchen.
Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because my vo-tech culinary chef was an alum and he always spoke so highly of the school. We took a field trip to the Hyde Park campus and I instantly knew it was the right decision.
How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
Scholarships have helped me reach my goal of getting a CIA education by supporting my journey in exchange for a short essay or GPA information. I recently received my first CIA-applied scholarship, the Wayne Almquist Memorial Scholarship, and it helped cut down costs of tuition. I also received the CIA Chef Scholarship for the past two terms. Grants are also very useful to cut down the costs of tuition. With all of my scholarships and grants, the cost of getting a CIA education was around the same price of my state school, yet with a much higher recognition benefit.
What do you like best about the CIA?
The thing I like best about the CIA is that it is a food-, beverage-, and hospitality-centric institute. All of our majors and concentrations revolve around the food industry. Also, the knowledge you learn in fundamentals classes will be utilized in later courses, even in the bachelor’s degree. That makes the knowledge progressive, instead of learning a subject and forgetting it the next semester from lack of repetition.
Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I have been a Bachelor’s Ambassador for the past two semesters. We host events and connect with students in the associate degree to expose them to the bachelor’s degree and help them through the process of applying.
I have been in the Eta Sigma Delta honor society for the past two semesters. We are required to fulfill volunteer hours and help the community as much as we can. We also collaborate with other clubs to get more publicity for our chapter.
I was recently named the secretary of the Entrepreneurship Club, a new club here on campus. The purpose of the “e-club” is to network with peers in the industry and learn more about the process of owning your own business. This club is open to both associate and bachelor’s degree students, and we are planning events to be able to fulfill this connection before students graduate and go on to the real world.
What is your favorite dish to make?
I do not have a favorite dish to make; I usually just work with whatever I have in the fridge or get food craving suggestions from other people. However, one can never go wrong with a well-made sandwich.
How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
My CIA education has prepared me for the business side of food because even in culinary fundamentals, we would always analyze cost of food and prevent waste as much as we could. Now that I am in the business side of CIA courses, we analyze these costs in the long- run and how they can make or break a business.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned while at the CIA?
One of the best lessons I’ve learned at the CIA came from Chef McCue and his famous “don’t think” statement. This has helped me build confidence in my aptitude for cooking and the utilization of flavor profiles.
What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
My career goals—after I graduate with my CIA Bachelor’s in Food Business Management with the Advanced Wine, Beverage, and Hospitality concentration—is to move to an area where there is a heavy population of distilleries, breweries, and/or wineries. I would love to dive into one of these beverage fields and, over time, learn more about each one. My long-term goal is to become a Certified Sommelier and open my own bar. My CIA education will get me there by giving me the knowledge needed to become the professional I want to be. Also, I will always be able to network with classmates or peers and have friends in all aspects of the food industry.
What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
The advice I would give to a new student considering the CIA is to never underestimate the amount of studying and practice you will need to become a chef. It is hard work; being a graduate of the associate program, I am able to say that from firsthand experience. The chefs on campus have had a long journey to get here and I believe they deserve a warm “thank you” every time you finish a kitchen class or even cross paths with a chef you never had in class before. Having a healthy relationship with the chefs on campus could be a major asset to making connections in the future.