Rachel Gurjar ’15: Taking Action Towards Personal Fulfillment
“Come with an open mind, a desire to learn and you will have the best experience of your life.”
CIA Alumni Bio
Rachel Gurjar ’15 is the test kitchen manager and food editor of The Feedfeed website, an online forum connecting people who love food. She also writes her own blog at www.cookshala.com. Rachel’s journey to a life in food began back home in India. Her career in public relations was not fulfilling, so Rachel made a change and enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park, NY campus. It was during her time at school that Rachel started looking for different creative outlets for a career. She studied food photography and styling, and happily found her niche.
How did you come to the realization that your life would be in the food world?
I was a 26 and working at a public relations firm in Mumbai when I realized how uninspired and unhappy I felt with my life professionally. I knew I had to take action if I wanted to change this. So, I wrote down some interests that gave me joy and it wasn’t a surprise at all that food was on top of the list because cooking was something I looked forward to from a very young age. Right then, I decided to switch careers and give this crazy idea a go. It took more than a year of preparation and sacrifices by my family for me to start this journey. I’m very glad that I did, because I love what I do and wouldn’t change a thing!
Why did you choose the CIA?
After doing my research, I felt that the curriculum and campus seemed like the most appropriate option for me. As soon as I got to CIA I knew immediately that I had made the right decision. From orientation to the last day, everything was thorough and detailed. It really is the best culinary school in the world!
How did the CIA prepare you for your chosen career?
I learned skills like organization, working fast, professionalism and made connections in the culinary world which helped me land an internship at ABC Kitchen and Public restaurants in New York City. This experience was invaluable because it opened my eyes to a whole new world related to food that I had no idea about. I use what I cultivated as a prep/line cook almost every day in the test kitchen.
How did scholarships and/or grants help you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
I received the Alumni Referral Scholarship. This definitely contributed to securing my education at the CIA.
What did you like best about your CIA experience?
Getting to know the chefs, instructors and fellow students was so one of the highlights of my time there. I loved that the CIA gave me a new family away from home. I met my mentors and formed friendships that I know I will have for life. These relationships motivated me to push myself further and cheered me on during difficult times, I am sincerely grateful to everyone for that.
What is/are the best lesson(s) you’ve learned while at the CIA?
One of the other biggest lessons I learned was how to be organized and preparing for any given task in advance. This helped me break down huge challenges into smaller parts and successfully completing them. I also learned to be patience and kind during stressful situations will help you come up with a solution more easily than getting frustrated or angry.
What class at the CIA had the most impact on you?
The fundamentals class gave a strong foundation in knife skills, cooking techniques and taught me a lot about how preparation is the key to success. “Mise en place for life!”
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I like that I get to be involved in the entire process of how a recipe comes to life—from conceptualizing to developing the actual recipe and then testing to make sure it works for the reader. I enjoy styling and photographing the food to make sure it is presented beautifully. I also love that I get to showcase the rich culinary history of my culture through food and that my work encourages me to do that. My colleagues are some of the best in the industry and a true joy to be around which makes going to work so much more fun. I love every minute of it!
What are some challenges that students may face in the industry?
Breaking into the food media world is a little difficult. But my advice would be to hone your food and recipe writing skills by starting a blog or contributing to websites and magazines. Always keep a lookout for open positions and making connections by attending food events so that when there’s a position open you can get a reference.
What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
Come with an open mind, a desire to learn and you will have the best experience of your life. Be prepared to work hard and give it your best so that you can make the most of this opportunity.