The Culinary Institute of America

Eric Jenkins, CIA culinary arts alumni, is a U.S. Army veteran.

Spotlight On: Eric JenkinsBPS Culinary Arts Management

Class of 2013
Hometown: Harrisonburg, VA
Military Branch: U.S. Army

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!

The Culinary Institute of America

1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499


Close Menu