How did you become interested in food?
Visiting my grandmother in North Carolina was always a fun learning
experience. She had a garden where she and my grandfather grew fresh
fruits and vegetables. Whenever she cooked you could smell the aroma for
miles, but being in her kitchen was a blessing and a curse. The
blessing was being able to smell all of the fresh spices, herbs and food
that she would use, watching her create a different meal each day for
all of her children and grandchildren. The curse was that my grandfather
would get very upset when he saw me in the kitchen watching or helping
my grandmother cook. He was a firm believer that men catch and/or gather
the food and women cooked it. His philosophy was that men should not be
in the kitchen. He would always yell at me, “Boy get on out of that
kitchen. That’s women’s work!” My grandmother would yell back, “Joe
leave that boy alone. If he wants to cook something, let him be!” My
grandmother believed that everyone should know how to cook, since there
was no guarantee that you would get married.
Who most influenced you?
My mother and my grandmother were my biggest influence. My grandmother
taught all six of her daughters how to cook and she believed that a
great meal comes from the “love” that you put into your cooking, as well
as the fresh ingredients. My mother taught me and my brothers how to
cook at a young age—for me, that was eight years old.
Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Two things; one, my age and two, adjusting to college life after serving 24 years in the U.S. Army.
Do you have a previous degree/career:
I obtained my an associate degree in Hospitality and Culinary Management
before coming to the CIA and served in the U.S. Army for 24 years as a
Food Service Specialist/Sergeant and Food Service Advisor.
Why did you choose the CIA:
My passion is in cooking. Food is my life. So after retiring from the
Army in February 2008, I went back to school at Central Texas College to
complete my associate degree in Hospitality and Culinary Management.
But I felt unfulfilled in my search to learn all that I can about
cooking, so I decided that I wanted to attend a real culinary school.
After an informative discussion with a CIA graduate/co-worker I set my
sights on The Culinary Institute of America.
What do you like best about CIA:
The instructors are very knowledgeable, helpful and they enjoy what they
teach. I wouldn’t have made it through the associate degree program
here without their support and willingness to help.
What are your career goals/plans:
Since I am already retired from one job, I am open to do just about
anything in the culinary field. And with the broad spectrum of options
in this career field, I am going to look at all of my options and pick
what I feel is right for me. Ultimately, I would like to teach and give
back what I have learned throughout my career.
Any advice for prospective students:
Do it! But come prepared to work hard and learn. Put your best foot
forward and take advantage of everything that the campus has to offer—it
will pay off in the end!