While I was in the military as a cook, I received a new assignment. I was to be the commanding officer’s “personal chef.” I had a meeting and was told I would be creating all the commanding officer’s menus as well as preparing and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All meals would be vegetarian with caloric limits and other dietary restrictions. The captain would also have guests invited to dinner parties and I was expected to create formal meals and formal meal service for this once a week. By this time I had been cooking for five years and had developed confidence in my abilities as a cook. Vegetarian cooking took me completely out of my element, however, I took the challenge head-on and learned everything I could about vegetarian cuisines—and over time my skills sharpened dramatically.
What prompted you to return to school?
After 10 years in the military and halfway to retirement, I was ready for a new challenge. My experience as a personal chef made me realize how much I had to learn in the world of culinary arts. While it was a difficult decision for me to leave the military, I was ready to start a new journey.
Why did you choose The Culinary Institute of America?
I wanted to go to the best culinary school. I started researching, and soon after I applied to the CIA. My goal was to become as knowledgeable as possible and to choose a path that would lead me to become a bona fide chef. In addition to the fact that the CIA was founded for returning WWII veterans, the curriculum was a perfect fit. I could pursue an associate degree with an option for a bachelor’s.
What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use?
The GI Bill is covering 100% of my tuition and fees.
What has your experience been like as a student?
What I like best is that there is a big support system for the students to fall back on, and the faculty has a genuine seriousness and care for what they are doing. The CIA is the best culinary college in the world and I wanted to take advantage of the premier culinary education. Everyone here shares a common passion for food.
What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?
Once I had made the decision to pursue a culinary career, I was all in. The CIA has great advocacy and support for veterans. I’ve been welcomed with open arms. The CIA shares the same values of leadership, professionalism commitment, integrity, and discipline, that have defined my military career making this a seamless transition.
Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?
The military provided me with an opportunity to find my true passion and the foundation to grow in my next career. The CIA is the start of my new career in the culinary arts and I look forward to the exciting new opportunities that the future holds.
What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?
Take your time, and come visit the campus. Do lots and lots of research, ask seasoned professionals, and be sure this is the career and desired path you truly want to take. In the end, go for your dreams and pursue a path that you believe will bring you happiness, fulfillment, challenge, and something you can be proud of.
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