Polina Chavez – Student Bio


Photo of CIA culinary arts associate degree student, Polina Chavez

“I wanted to be at the college that had the most dedicated instructors, staff, and students. The staff here is not only extremely talented but extremely passionate. I wanted to be in the place that would help me grow the most—and it was the CIA.”

Major: Associate Degree in Culinary Arts
Campus: St. Helena, CA

Hometown: San Diego, CA

How did you become interested in food?
I have a wonky past with my family which resulted in me never really having the home kitchen experience. I didn’t understand what family dinners were or what the holidays were truly supposed to be about. I became interested in food because I knew it was a universal concept that everyone likes and I wanted to know how to create beautiful dishes to bring people together, to create the family and kitchen experience I never had.

Why did you choose the CIA?
I wanted to be at the college that had the most dedicated instructors, staff, and students. The staff here is not only extremely talented but extremely passionate. I wanted to be in the place that would help me grow the most—and it was the CIA.

How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
Scholarships have allowed me to continue my education without worrying about or being limited by money. There is a vast amount of scholarships really opening the college to a large population. And there is a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 that pushes me to strive to be the best I can be.

What do you like best about the CIA?
The best thing about the CIA is the people. Being around students as well as staff, living in a place that is submerged in food and wine, fuels my education and makes it more than just “going to school.” The people here make class time and every moment on campus more than enjoyable. This industry is about teamwork, and there is no one else I’d rather work with, struggle with, and make new memories with.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I am a tutor and tour guide, and I occasionally help with special events and conferences on campus.
As a tutor it is not about the money, it is truly about being able to watch my peers and friends grow. Knowing that I somehow am a part of their success is very heartwarming.
As a tour guide and working in the admissions office, I am able to help someone’s journey before they even start at the CIA. Being able to explain my passion and how happy I am comes so naturally, and I want others to be as happy and pursue their passion.

What is your favorite dish to make?
My favorite dish to make is fresh egg pasta. There is something about the simplicity of combining flour and eggs. I really enjoy being able to make something edible with a few simple steps and ingredients—the beauty of simplicity. And you are able to transform the pasta to any size, shape, and color.

How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
The concepts taught at the CIA range from kitchen mechanics to food safety and nutrition, but most importantly there is a push to teach front of house as well as menu design and costing a restaurant. Working in the restaurant in my last semester has made everything come full circle, especially after completing externship.

What is the best lesson you’ve learned while at the CIA?
The best lesson I have learned at the CIA is be positive. This industry has long crazy hours, but you spend that time with the best people creating amazing food. You have a passion and that is why you push through everything that happens. I also believe in being positive because every day there is something new to learn and to see, and if you aren’t optimistic and open you will miss some amazing opportunities.

What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
My career goal is to become a teacher and educate people about food. I want society to understand where food comes from, its foundation—and the CIA has helped by exposing me to every concept, to every cuisine, and to the business side of food.

What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
I would tell a new student to make sure you are passionate and you geek about anything food- or wine-related. This school is tough, but the things that get you through are your passion and true love for the food industry.