The Culinary Institute of America

Marlene Payne

Spotlight On: Marlene PayneBaking and Pastry Arts

Class of 2013
"The CIA has an established reputation of excellence and this industry is all about reputation. As you build your own good name through the program and in the industry, the CIA family of alumni is a vast network of support and opportunity."

How did you become interested in food?
The first time I recall being excited about baking, I was very young and my mom made cut-out cookies and colored the icing in pastel colors. They were the happiest cookies I had ever seen and I have been enjoying baking ever since.

Who most influenced you?
Taking baking to a professional level is totally another matter. During a trying time in my life, I baked and shared these items with friends of mine at the Blackthorne Inn, VA. It was the support from these friends in the industry that encouraged me to start baking professionally.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Losing my husband in January 2008 was the Ground Zero of my life. When I lost him, I lost my livelihood and my home. I was lost and trying to find my way out of a nightmare while struggling to keep from becoming homeless.

Do you already have a degree from another college or did you previously have a different career?
I had a very fulfilling career as a Canine Behaviorist working with my husband in a business he began in 1959. He was the number one breeder of European German Shepherd Dogs in the U.S. and sixth in the world. I apprenticed with him and trained all breeds of dogs, particularly in scent and protection work. Training dogs without him was like having a funeral every day. It broke my heart.

Why did you choose the CIA?
My husband was my daughter’s stepfather and when she expressed interest in a baking career during high school, he told her she had to visit the CIA. She did, and she is a 2008 grad. I chose the CIA because it is the “Harvard” of culinary schools.

What do you like best about CIA?
I love the talent and passion of our chefs.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I have worked and volunteered in the alumni office. I will be volunteering to help with the Alumni weekend again and assisting with the Run for Your Knives road race.

What are your career goals/plans?
My plans and goals evolve as I go through the program. I plan to continue my education so as to earn my Bachelor’s degree and I am considering my options at this time.

Any advice for prospective students?
The CIA has an established reputation of excellence and this industry is all about reputation. As you build your own good name through the program and in the industry, the CIA family of alumni is a vast network of support and opportunity.

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