Q&A with Johnny Hernandez ’89
Johnny Hernandez is a man with a deep respect for his past, a drive for excellence in his present, and a passion and curiosity about the future. He generously nurtures the potential he sees in young people, directing them towards fulfilling lives in the foodservice industry. Kind of heart and clear of purpose, Johnny exemplifies the values we hope to see in all our graduates.
How do you think the culinary landscape has changed in San Antonio since the CIA opened a campus there?
The CIA has brought food awareness to the city of San Antonio. It has raised the level of expectation of local chefs. And now, you have a skilled workforce coming out of the CIA as well as a Latin Cuisines Concentration Program that adds another level of experience that challenges everyone. The CIA’s presence has also made San Antonio a destination for high-level food industry conventions such as the Research Chef’s Association.
What do you think the challenges are that new alumni face?
I think the most important thing a young chef must learn is to have patience and maturity in the face of all the fads and quick turnovers. There is a lot of hype in the industry and you have to find good mentors, think strategically, and learn along the way. Our graduates need to consistently reflect the core values they learned at the CIA. They will stand out in an industry where not everyone exhibits that same degree of professionalism.
What does the CIA mean to you?
When I came to the CIA I knew how to work hard; my father taught me that. The college gave me a deep knowledge of food. I left my home and family in San Antonio and found another home in the kitchens at school and found family among my classmates and demanding chefs at the CIA.
You’ve now organized three hugely successful San Antonio Paella Challenges, raising CIA student scholarship monies. What prompted you to take on such a big task?
Giving back is part of my family culture. It is my pleasure to be able to help my college continue to offer young people a superior culinary education.