How did you become interested in food and hospitality?
Growing up in an Italian family, my earliest food memories seem to all revolve around food. If it wasn’t the weekly tradition of Sunday Pasta, it was waiting in line to get zeppole on Saint Joseph’s day, or waking up early to get the Sfogliatelle for Christmas Eve. Food always meant gathering, and it was very special for me. I knew that it was symbolic, and although the pasta my grandmother Antoinette makes each week is delicious, it really means that I get to spend a few hours with the people I love.
How do you define the concept of hospitality?
Hospitality to me means making people feel welcome. As we advance in hotels and with online bookings we’re losing that human touch, and when I plan my events someday that’s something I don’t want to lose.
Why did you choose the CIA?
Believe it or not, I have known CIA was the place for me since I was in second grade! I was beginning to become completely infatuated with all things culinary around this point in my life, and upon researching found that many of the Food Network chefs I was watching attended the CIA. My mom finally took me to visit when I was in fifth grade, as I think by then she realized it wasn’t just a phase for me.
My goals changed from being a pastry chef to becoming an event planner during my high school years. I still adore baking and have a passion for food, but I realized that spending my life in a kitchen was simply not going to work for me. I discovered that although I could bake a mean cake, I was even better at—and found more pleasure in—working with people. I lucked out, because when it was time for me to apply, CIA was unveiling their brand-new Hospitality Management bachelor’s program. Since September of last year, I have been riding the wave of this new program and it has been an amazing journey that’s opening my eyes to new cultures, foods, experiences, and some wonderful people.
How does the CIA prepare students to go out into the world and practice hospitality?
One of the best parts of the Hospitality Management major is the fact that we’ve been able to go on field trips and have a number of guest speakers come in. It’s one thing to talk about something in a classroom, but it’s another thing to actually go and hear from the industry and walk around in it. That gives you a really awesome feel of what it’s going to be like out there.
Our first field trip, we went to New York City to visit the Marriott Marquis and Compass Group. We were able to go to two events that Compass Group was putting on that day. Event planning is something I’d like to look into, and that was great exposure to that.
We’ve also had several guest speakers from hotels. Auberge Resorts’ Tony DeLucia came in and talked to us about his experience being a CIA grad and the places that life took him to wind up where he was.
How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
I have been fortunate enough to have been awarded quite a few scholarships. I apply for scholarships frequently, and have been able to pay for 2/3 of my education with them so far.
What do you like best about the CIA?
I could easily say the food or the view of the Hudson River are the best parts of the school, but I think what I like best about CIA is deeper than that. It’s an incredible thing for students from all over the world to be able to attend this mecca for food. Everyone who comes here is coming with a passion. Although you may not become best friends with everyone you meet here, it’s incredible to have the common interest of food with everyone who walks through the halls. It has really allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn about countless cultures through the lens of food. When you make friends here, you learn who they are by the way they talk about food and how it has been an integral part of shaping their lives. I feel so grateful to have friends from everywhere, from Wisconsin all the way to Israel, Bali, Portugal, Korea, and Japan. To quote the great Anthony Bourdain, you truly can “learn a lot about someone when you share a meal with them.”
Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I have two on-campus jobs here at CIA that I love. I’m a senior tutor in the Library Learning Commons, as well as a digital marketing assistant. I am also part of the Tea Club, the Hospitality Management Club, and an unofficial yoga club. In my spare time, I am almost always at a yoga or Zumba class and really enjoy spending time at our fitness center.
What is your favorite dish to make?
This past semester I had the pleasure of being in Chef De Paola’s Modern Banquet Cookery class. It was challenging for me in all the right ways. I have to say that out of all the delicious meals we made, I will always remember the simple act of roasting vegetables with him. He took the time to show me the proper way to cook each vegetable to the perfect doneness and how to get it the exact level of brownness. It is very easy to throw some veggies on a sheet pan and cook them until the timer goes off, but going the extra mile to give each ingredient the proper care can truly make a world of difference.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned while at the CIA?
Being here, I have learned that you truly can take something away from every situation you are in or person you meet. This realization has really allowed me to mature as a person and changed my perspective of life. It’s a lesson I’ve learned inside and out of the classroom. You can have a really rough day and easily say that it was awful and complain, or you can assess the situation and make changes so the next day will be better. In the same way, you can meet people who may not be the friendliest and quickly make an assumption that they are mean or rude, whatever it may be. Or, you can recognize that perhaps they are going through something and just were not in the right state of mind that day.
That is where the whole idea of hospitality begins to come into play. Every day in life, something is going to happen that upsets, worries, or frustrates us. It is our interactions throughout the day that have the power to get rid of a bad attitude or make us forget about our problems. Being here to study hospitality, I strive to embody what Danny Meyer would describe as “being on the other person’s side.” It is a really interesting thing to be developing as an individual, and also as an industry professional. Each day I stare at a wrinkled Post-it note that I wrote in my first few weeks that states “Go the extra mile.” This is a reminder to myself that when I take the time to put effort in, great things will follow.
What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
I have two interests—food media and event planning, and I am truly not sure which one I will end up pursuing. Since I was in eighth grade, I have written a blog showcasing my love for food and travel called Simply Jules. Through this blog, I began appearing on Connecticut news program such as CT Style, giving culinary demonstrations. I really fell in love with this aspect of the industry. I also had the opportunity to be on The Rachael Ray Show, which was amazing!
During high school, I was part of a culinary arts and hospitality management course all four years. I had the opportunity to work alongside my instructor to help expand the program. While I was there, we developed a catering business, grab-n-go café, and food truck in addition to the in-school restaurant. Personally, I was able to spearhead the tasks of creating an after-school culinary arts exploration program for middle schoolers, as well as a pop-up bakery café that served 500 people in just five hours. It was through these events that I really found my true passion for hospitality.
My CIA education is furthering my knowledge and scope of the industry each day to put me one step closer to where I need to be. Since being here, I have been able to meet an array of industry professionals, as well as learn from some gifted instructors.
What would you tell a student considering the Hospitality Management program?
The real edge that the CIA will give you after you graduate from the program is that you will have experience in the kitchen, which other colleges with hospitality degrees don’t have. So it does give you a competitive advantage.