How did you become interested in your major?
Growing up I always wondered what is it that interests me. What drives me? I couldn't think of any specific profession to pursue and would always say to myself, "Alex, you just like to make people feel happy and good." I loved art, loved trying new things, learning, and food. After high school, I was going to pursue a career in accounting. When searching for schools to attend in the area of Springfield, MA, I came across a one-year culinary arts training program. It was very convenient, about two streets from where I lived. I decided to give it a shot! This changed my views and brought about a new path that I wanted to pursue. My passion for cooking was finally found and I made my choice to stick to it. I completed the program but still wanted more. I needed to learn new techniques, more about cooking, food, new flavor combinations, more than what the program offered. I said to myself, "Alex, if you are going to strive for something, why not strive for the very best?" And here I am now, attending The Culinary Institute of America—loving every second of it!
Who most influenced your decision to pursue this career?
Who influences my decisions the most has been my mother Zulma Ortiz. She has and always will be there for me no matter what I do. She was the one who taught me respect, morals, and ethics that I will always carry with me. My mother is a very lovely lady, always busy cooking, working, and cleaning the house. Before applying to The Culinary Institute of America, I had to, of course, go to my mother. She encouraged me, her only son, to enroll and to make sure I do my best and complete my goals.
Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Being a first-generation college student, I had many obstacles that I had to prevail over. The process of even applying to school, applying for financial aid and loans, was very hard to figure out without the help of family. A huge obstacle was that financial road block. My start date was in jeopardy because, even with all the financial help I received from both the school and federal aid, I couldn't afford to attend the school. I had one month to do everything from fundraising to applying for scholarships to posting flyers asking for donations. However, with hard work and determination, I made it. Here I am. I have made it so far.
Why did you choose the CIA?
One of my previous chefs told me, "Alex, if you ever have the opportunity to go to the CIA, and you don't take it. I will come after you!" I visited the school in November 2014 to check it out. This is exactly where I wanted to be. Culinary Paradise.
What do you like best about the CIA?
The diversity of the school is great. I love it! So many different cultures and people from all over the world. There is so much that you could grasp onto while attending the CIA.
What are your career goals or plans right after graduation?
After graduation, I want to go directly into restaurants to gain as much experience as I can. I want to train and acquire knowledge in the kitchen and in all parts of the restaurant. My goal is to be able to own my own restaurant and I will work towards that.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending the CIA?
If you are considering attending the CIA, you really need to have a passion for food and a strong will to learn. Here at the school, you need to become a sponge and be willing to work hard to absorb as much information as you can. Come with set goals and a mindset to do your best and give it all you've got—but still have fun and love what you are doing!