Chef Andrea Cuellar ’07, School Food
Andrea Cuellar welcomes the opportunity to show off her chef’s coat and share her CIA pride with the world. As the Regional Executive Chef-West Region for Chartwells School Dining Services K12 in Los Angeles, CA, Andrea regularly comes into contact with students and teachers and is always happy to answer questions about the CIA.
She has every reason to be proud. For three years, Andrea led the development and implementation strategy for Just Salad’s R&D team in New York City. A lot went into that position including developing seasonal and permanent menu items; scheduling menu tests, tastings, roll-outs, photo shoots, and media events; modifying existing recipes and processes to align with the brand’s core values; educating the operations team about menu changes; conducting menu audits; and training international franchise partners.
In September 2018, Andrea made the decision to move back home to the West coast. Did she expect to be working in the school dining sector? “Never in my wildest dreams,” she says. Like many incoming CIA freshmen, her initial goal was to be a chef in a high-end restaurant. “But at the CIA, I learned that there were many pathways to follow,” she says. “Now I’m back in the kitchen developing healthy recipes from fresh ingredients for a whole new customer base.”
It was through working at her grandmother’s four-seat juice bar and sandwich shop in Los Angeles that her love of the food business began. In high school, as part of the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), she won a week at the CIA at Greystone in the Napa Valley.
“From there, I just knew that the CIA was my top choice,” she recalls. When Andrea earned college scholarships from C-CAP, she used them to enroll at the CIA, and that was life-changing. “My CIA experience helped open my eyes to the bigger world of the food industry. Not only did I learn so much about food and different cuisines, but I also got a well-rounded education about the industry from different perspectives,” she explains. “I am glad I chose to stay for the bachelor’s program as well. That taught me so much about management and different styles of dealing with it. If I could do it again, I totally would!”
“Keeping an open mind will lead you to career success,” says Andrea. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, if your passion is food, then the CIA is the place to go! You will go in with one idea in mind of where you think your career will go, but the CIA will help expand that. You may choose to go in a different direction. Food is not just cooking; you can do anything and everything with it.”
Chef Andrea Cuellar majored in culinary management at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is the regional executive chef-west region at the Chartwells School Dining Services K12 based in Los Angeles, CA.