Chef-Instructor Sean Kahlenberg ’04, Teaching at My Alma Mater

Sean Kahlenberg '04, Lecturing Instructor—Culinary Arts, The Culinary Institute of America
“Life is full of choices…a good education helps you make the right ones. I could not believe how fast the CIA got me to where I wanted to be after graduating.”
—Sean Kahlenberg

 CIA Alumni Bio

Traveling the world as a professional chef wasn’t in Sean Kahlenberg’s original plans while he was growing up in the small town of Wollongong, Australia. “I was an athlete, and when I was 16 I actually bought my own gym,” Sean recalls. “And then my friend and I bought two more.” At around that same time, however, an opportunity to apprentice at a local diner came up. “Some friends were running a downtown eatery and no one could really handle the heat in the kitchen at the time; it’s very hot and humid in Australia,” he says. “I thought, ‘I can do that’ and proved to be able to stand there longer than anyone else. So I got the job.”

The Traveling Chef

Things took off from there for the young chef. The diner did well, and ultimately received a contract with a big hotel in the area. So the entire staff moved to that location, and that’s when Sean says he started learning cooking at another level. It’s also when he began getting a taste for travel. “My chef at the hotel was the first foodie I was ever exposed to. He was a big traveler, and we would both hit the road backpacking, going to different restaurants, cooking, experiencing different cultures. I started thinking, ‘I can do this.’”

Did he ever “do” it. He went through Asia, Europe, and Canada—a self-described “perpetual sous chef”—working the line and discovering new ingredients and cuisines. But as Sean traveled, he kept noticing something else. “I saw CIA grads wherever I went, and they were always promoted ahead of me,” he explains. “So I decided that one day, when I got to America, I was going to check out this college.”


That day came when he took a job at a summer camp in Cape Cod, MA, teaching climbing and helping out in the kitchen. An avid rock climber, he visited the Hudson Valley area to check out “The Gunks,” the Shawangunk Mountains. He was pleasantly surprised to discover the CIA was practically right there. Twelve days later, he was a student. “I was blown away ” href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>international students to follow his lead and check out the CIA for their culinary education. “It’s very demanding, but I don’t think there’s a better school out there,” he says. “Life is full of choices, and a good education helps you make the right ones. The level of student the CIA is putting out is better than any other school in the world. I could not believe how fast the CIA got me to where I wanted to be after graduating.”

Chef Sean Kahlenberg majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He is a chef-instructor at the college.