Chef Jason Pfeifer ’06, Blazing a Trail in the Food World

Jason Pfeifer ’06, CIA Alumni
“The CIA prepared me with the basic skills and expectations I would need to enter the culinary world.”
—Jason Pfeifer ’06

CIA Alumni Bio

The list of chefs Jason Pfeifer has worked for reads like a “Who’s Who” of culinary giants—Michael Anthony at Gramercy Tavern, Thomas Keller and Jonathan Benno ’93 at Per Se, and René Redzepi at Noma.

Now he’s joined his own prestigious list, having been named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” for 2014 in the Food category, a list the magazine says “represents the entrepreneurial, creative, and intellectual best of their generation.” And Jason certainly fits that criteria.

Foraging the Appalachian Trail

He was just 18 when he completed a 2,174 miles, five-month hike of the Appalachian Trail, creating gourmet meals with foraged ingredients. Jason then spent time maintaining two organic farms at an inn in his native North Carolina, and decided to turn his passion for food into a career.

My Path to Becoming a Chef

When he enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America, the course was charted for his future success. “The CIA prepared me with the basic skills and expectations I would need to enter the culinary world,” he says. “It was the first conscious choice I made to set myself on the path of becoming a chef, and it has been invaluable in the trail I’ve taken.”

Working with the Best

While at the CIA, Jason took his internship at Union Square Hospitality Group’s renowned Gramercy Tavern in New York City, and did so well, he ended up joining the team there after graduation. He followed that up with a chef de partie position at Per Se, then traveled to Denmark for an apprenticeship at Noma.

Back in the U.S., he returned to Union Square in New York as the opening sous chef at Maialino, a Roman-style trattoria whose name translates to “Little Pig.” Named chef de cuisine in 2013 and executive chef in 2016, Jason adds his own spin to a menu that features roast suckling pork and other central Italian delicacies. In 2018, Danny Meyer chose Jason as the executive chef at his new restaurant called Manhattta in New York City.

His reaction to the “30 Under 30” announcement shows just how much Jason has appreciated his many mentors along the way. “Being on the Forbes list is a testament to the hard work I’ve put into my career and hopefully also to the chefs I have worked with—at the CIA and elsewhere—who have taken the time to teach me.”

Chef Jason Pfeifer majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He is the executive chef at Manhatta in New York City.