The Culinary Institute of America

Nora Hoefer

Spotlight On: Nora HoeferAOS Culinary Arts

Class of 2013
Hometown: Manlius, NY
"The chefs at Wegmans encouraged me to pursue my dream of enrolling at the CIA. I realized that my "hobby" could be my career...many of the chefs at Wegmans are CIA alumni and spoke highly of their experience at the school."

How did you become interested in food?
I loved cooking at an early age because in my mind, food always equaled family. When I was old enough to walk, my nose led me to my Nana’s kitchen. I spent a lot of time standing by her side, patiently waiting to see what she was concocting. Her style was simple and satisfying—chocolate cream pie and chicken parmesan were her specialties. It was unpretentious food that had a way of bringing everyone together with smiles on their faces. She cooked with love and inspired me to keep sharing comfort, traditions, and stories through food.

Who most influenced you?
The chefs at Wegmans in Pittsford, NY encouraged me to pursue my dream of enrolling at the CIA. Before attending the CIA I worked for Wegmans part-time during college, followed by a year-long internship with the company’s marketing department. I would talk to everyone and anyone who would listen to me about food—where products came from, how to prepare items, plating ideas, and flavor combinations. I realized that my “hobby” could be my career and they encouraged me to seek out an opportunity. Many of the chefs at Wegmans are CIA alumni and spoke highly of their experience at the school. I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to the profession and their support made it seem possible.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
I had some reservations before coming to school. I questioned my ability to work in a high-volume kitchen. I had never worked in a restaurant before and was afraid I would not be up to par. I worked hard in my classes, practiced in my free time and asked for help. I’ve learned that everyone is willing to help, and there is no shame in asking for it. After all, a kitchen staff is a team!

Do you have a previous degree/career?
Before attending the CIA I graduated from The University of Rochester with a BA in Political Science, a BA in Public Health, and a Certificate in Management/Marketing.  I spent one year after graduation working with the marketing team at Wegmans Food Markets on their social media marketing spectrum.

Why did you choose the CIA?
My decision to apply to the CIA was a long time coming. I put my name on the mailing list and was contemplating switching my college program during my sophomore year. Ultimately, the timing was not appropriate, so I put the idea of culinary school on the back burner until I graduated college. I then decided to pursue a culinary career.

My interest in food, culture and hospitality was unwavering and I knew I needed a more well- rounded education. After speaking to several co-workers and CIA alumni at Wegmans, I knew that the CIA was the opportunity that I was looking for. The program was focused on technical skills, food history, management and nutrition. It was more comprehensive than any other school, and it would provide me with a richer education than I could obtain from just simply working in the industry.

What do you like best about CIA?
I love the culture and the focus. Everyone is here for the same reason and the professionalism at this school never ceases to amaze me. Students wake up at 5 a.m. excited and anxious for class. They all “speak” food and are always searching for opportunities to experience food in the community.

What are your career goals/plans?
I would eventually like to own a restaurant—something I never considered before attending the CIA. In the meantime, I love writing and learning about the connection between cultural traditions and food. Ideally, I would like to travel, learn and experience as much as possible, while perhaps doing freelance writing on the side. I am currently searching for my next opportunity and thinking about a career in restaurant management after I graduate.

Any advice for prospective students?
Seek out every opportunity to learn. Volunteer to work in kitchens so you can see the dynamic, management styles and learn new techniques and preparations. Email people who inspire you. They have been in your shoes at one point and can give the best advice. Ask your peers and co-workers questions and be inquisitive. Everyone has different experiences and backgrounds that you can learn from. Lastly, be fearless in your home kitchens. Ideas in food do not always work but you learn a lot along the way.

The Culinary Institute of America

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