Justin Ilkhanoff: More Experience, The Better


“What I love best about CIA is being able to do something that I love doing, learning from the greatest chefs, and getting really good experience working on campus.”

CIA Student Bio

How did you become interested in food?
It all started back when I was in sixth grade when my mom was busy at work and there wasn’t any food. My mother told me, “Justin, why don’t you get dinner ready for all of us, and for dinner we are having spaghetti and meatballs.” So when I made that meal, it just clicked for me and I said, “Man, I actually enjoy doing this.” So for the past 6 years I would always be cooking at home. Then in high school I decided I wanted to be an executive chef. Food has just always been something I’ve been interested in from a young age.

Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose CIA because I knew that it was one of the best culinary schools in the world. Also, my culinary teacher at my technical school, Chef David Brooks, encouraged me to go there because it is one of the best schools ever. Another reason I chose to attend CIA was because I can learn even better culinary skills; every day I am learning something new, and I enjoy learning new things.

“In high school I decided I wanted to be an executive chef. Food has just always been something I’ve been interested in from a young age…”
—Justin Ilkhanoff, CIA culinary arts student

How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
These scholarships have helped me very much because I have really worked hard in school just to be able to earn them. When I get an e-mail that I have received a scholarship, it makes me think that I’ve achieved something great. Another thing I like about scholarships is that there are so many to apply for to get money for tuition.

What do you like best about the CIA?
What I love best about CIA is being able to do something that I love doing, learning from the greatest chefs, and getting really good experience working on campus. The more experience I can get the better. Another thing I love about CIA is meeting so many different students from all around the world because it is really interesting to learn where other people live and what they do.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
When I first started at CIA I decided to start off by doing Welcome Team and Green and Gold Weekend because I wanted to get to know so many more students. Also, I did the Chili Cook-Off with my team, “Future Chefs of America”—and we won!

What is your favorite dish to make?
My favorite dish to make is a grilled salmon with rice pilaf and sautéed vegetables, finished with a mango and citrus salsa. What I enjoy about that dish is it’s something simple yet really tasty because of all the flavors.

How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
How CIA has helped me with the business side of things was teaching me how to cost out my food, because I never really knew how to do that.

What is the best lesson you’ve learned while at the CIA?
The one thing my instructor Chef (Pierre) Baran told me was to have passion, because without passion you will have a hard time working in the kitchen. Another thing Chef told me was to take notes with the demos and carry a notepad with you at all times because you can write down everything you have learned and it will follow you for the rest of your life.

What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
My goals after graduating from CIA is to first work in the industry and get some more working experience; then I want to be in charge of running the whole food operations for Four Seasons Hotels.

What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
My advice for any CIA students attending is to stay disciplined, work hard, listen to your chef-instructors, and ask any questions to your chefs because they are always willing to give you feedback. Another thing is to consider working on campus because you can get really good experience—the more experience the better!

Justin Ilkhanoff is a CIA student pursuing his associate degree in culinary arts at the college’s Hyde Park campus in New York. He is from Lancaster, PA.