Brandon Medley: Always Be a Student
“We are constantly talking about waste and using what we think as scraps to make more great food. One of my chefs here once told me that a great chef is measured by what they can do with what we consider “waste.””
CIA Student Bio
How did you become interested in food?
I would hang out in the kitchen with my godmother. We would decorate cakes together, make oatmeal raisin cookies, and if I was lucky she would make her famous 7UP cake with me. In those experiences I realized how curious and creative I was in the kitchen.
Why did you choose the CIA?
When I was in 9th grade, a student from the CIA came and did an amazing cooking demo. It sparked my interest in the school. Then in 10th grade at a conference I attended, (former CIA Dean) Fritz Sonnenschmidt did a rather simple but complex “1-pot cooking” demo. He was so knowledgeable about the ingredients and the science. I knew at that point that someday I’d be lucky to have half as much knowledge. I knew that the CIA would push me, and that the standard of excellence was like no other.
How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
I have a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) grant and many other grants. Scholarships at the CIA have truly been a blessing to me and my family! I received scholarships before and during my time at the college. As a student I take pride that my school invests a great deal of money in our education.
What do you like best about the CIA?
I love the sense of community. And also that there are people from totally different backgrounds, but food brings us all together! It’s great to see other passionate people striving for excellence every day. Not to mention the beautiful campus, and great dining options.
Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I am a sophomore senator on the Student Government Associate executive board. SGA gives me the opportunity to make connections, and truly make a difference. I also play on the basketball team. I love to compete on a team. And it’s a great way to de-stress, and to stay in shape. Lastly I am a resident assistant. This gives me the ability to help students and gain leadership experience.
What is your favorite dish to make?
I love to make extremely flavorful and intense broths. I enjoy adding to the broth to make a light and tasty meal. For example, a Thai chili broth with tons of lemongrass and Thai basil, topped with a really nice piece of steamed black sea bass. Bulgur and braised greens cooked with smoked turkey complete this great dish. Red pepper coulis compliments it as well. The layers of flavor are just amazing, and it’s a pretty healthy meal of course.
How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
We have many academic classes here at the CIA that focus on the numbers and paperwork you need to know for the industry. We are constantly talking about waste and using what we think as scraps to make more great food. One of my chefs here once told me that a great chef is measured by what they can do with what we consider “waste.”
What are the best lessons you’ve learned while at the CIA?
During my time here I have learned many valuable lessons. During Culinary Fundamentals I learned that preparation leads to success. On my externship at McCormick, I learned to absorb everything as a student. I also realized that I’ll always be a student. There’s always more to explore and learn.
What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
My career goals are to first and foremost to live a life that my mom would be proud of. I want to make her so proud and give her the world! I plan to pursue a career in culinary research and development. A corporate research chef is the goal. I hope that this career gives me the opportunity to travel, grow as a person, and of course learn. The CIA’s standard of excellence and connections will help me get there. But at the end of the day it’s up to my hard work and dedication.
What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
I’d give new students four simple pieces of advice. First, BE PREPARED! If you are prepared, you give yourself your best shot at success. Next, I’d say to get involved. Getting involved on campus will help you build friendships and connections. I’d then say to simply be happy and never lose your love for food. There will be hard days, but you’ll see your true colors at that time. The last piece of advice is really simple—make mistakes! It’s ok. We are students and we are here to learn.
Brandon Medley is a CIA student pursuing his associate degree in culinary arts at the college’s Hyde Park campus in New York. He is from Sewell, NJ.