Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts, February 2017
Applied Food Studies, July 2017
Culinary Institute of America
Why did you decide to go to culinary school?
I always wanted to go to culinary school and was going to try to attend part-time while working in carpentry, but the school lost its accreditation when I was applying. It ended up working out for the best. A friend recommended the Culinary Institute of America. I was 27 or 28 at the time, so my friend thought the CIA would be the best school to set me up for the future. I wasn’t familiar with the CIA, but when I toured the Hyde Park campus, I immediately knew I wanted to enroll. I started last May and it has already completely changed my life.
Who Inspires You?
I like to think I get my passion for cooking from my Polish grandmother. She always hosted the holidays and prepared the food. She really inspired me to want to cook.
I think Julia Child has had the most influence on who I want to be as a chef. I always appreciated her simplified approach to cooking. Whether watching her cooking program or reading her cookbooks, she never made it intimidating. Like me, Julia got into the culinary scene later in life. So anytime I get discouraged, I think of Julia Child and how hard she worked, especially when she was older. It really shows that there’s no timetable when you need to come into your own as a chef. As long as you’re passionate and it’s something you really want to do, you’ll succeed.
Can you share something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn?
A few years ago, I worked with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program. Giving back to the community was always a big part of my upbringing, and it offered me a way to help while traveling and using my carpentry experience. During the first year, I visited Nepal, where I joined nearly 400 other volunteers from around the world to help build homes in a small village. It was an incredible experience. I’ve become really passionate about the Global Village Program and recently got certified to lead future trips. I plan to lead my first trip next year when I graduate.
What are your plans or career goals when you graduate?
I recently decided to stay for a bachelor’s degree in Applied Food Studies, which focuses more on sustainability, food cycles, poverty, etc. I’m really interested in working with nonprofits like the World Food Program, whose major goal is to work with the UN to eradicate hunger and poverty throughout the world. I want to find ways to make sure people have an adequate connection to food.
What advice would you give to new students in culinary school?
Be humble. A lot of people come here thinking they know a lot already, but there are new things to learn everyday.
Be extremely prepared. It’s important to be ready to jump in and pick up the slack.
Take as much away from every opportunity as possible. Learn something from each chef you interact with; whether it’s his philosophy or cooking style, each chef brings something unique and valuable.
And most importantly, be ready to work really hard. You get out of the experience what you put into it.
What do you think makes a chef successful?
You have to have a strong work ethic.
You have to know your ingredients and recipes.
You have to be willing to work in a team environment. You’re not going to be successful as a kitchen unless you’re all working together, communicating, and teaching each other.
And always be open to learning.