Kyle Wagner, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts student at The Culinary Institute of America.

Student Bio: Kyle Wagner

Associate Degree in Culinary Arts
Hometown: Cypress, TX
“A degree from the CIA does not have to limit you to just a kitchen; the world is our doorstep to limitless opportunities.”

How did you become interested in your major?
I became interested in becoming a chef because my parents loved to cook. They cooked quite frequently, which then led to them entertaining with our family friends. I saw how food brought people together and wanted to make it a career.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue this career?
Probably my mother is the one who influenced me the most. She has been a major influence on my cooking style. My mom grew up in New Orleans for part of her life. Living in such a food-influenced area, she gained knowledge about great Cajun cooking and brought the Cajun style of cooking into our home. There’s one dish my mother has made my whole life that’s a New Orleans special: barbequed shrimp. It’s messy since each shrimp is peeled before you eat it, extremely flavorful with the crab boil and loads of pepper, and a meal you don’t add to your calorie counter as the dish is cooked in six pounds of butter. I actually did my internship in New Orleans and would give anything to go back. As for influence from my mother, she’s basically been the one for all of it, so thank you mom.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Yes, trying to convince my parents to allow me to come to the CIA. I have two siblings who went to Texas A&M and both received a typical degree. Therefore, my choosing something completely different made it hard for them at first to understand that this is what I wanted to do.

Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because I knew that I’d receive an awesome education, along with being able to receive a bachelor’s degree for my career—that was what sold my parents and me.

What do you like best about the CIA?
What I like best about the CIA is knowing that I’m learning from chefs who are incredibly knowledgeable. They know the ins and outs of our career; getting educated by this faculty is the greatest.

What is/are the best lesson(s) you’ve learned while at the CIA or what advice would you give to new students?
The lessons I’ve learned while being here would probably be that I’ve grown up, realizing that my parents are no longer there to push me or to keep me in check. Advice I would give to students would be to get ready to start the greatest career.

What are your career goals or plans right after graduation?
After graduation I’ll probably move back home to work so I can save money. My career goal is to open my own restaurant dedicated to my parents since they’ve dedicated their life to my siblings and me. The style of restaurant I hope to open one day would be something based off Cajun/Creole cooking, with a casual dining room. As previously stated, I was influenced by my mother, but my dad too in some ways. One way they both influenced me was the fact that my parents have always hosted people in our home. With that, they created a casual, relaxing, enjoyable environment for our family and friends that allowed them to enjoy spending time with us. I dream of that same experience, but for guests in my future restaurant. I’d love to bring people together to catch up, savor a great meal, but most importantly enjoy the company they’re with.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending the CIA?
This career choice isn’t easy. Get ready to work a lot. But just because you graduate from this school doesn’t mean you have to work in a kitchen your entire life. To be honest this degree is limitless; it could take you anywhere. An example of this is the story my father always tells people who inquire about the degree we receive here. When we were at the college for an interest meeting for students and their parents to learn more about the CIA and programs offered, a gentleman from the class of ’77 stood up and gave a speech. He talked about how CIA grads are recruited to work at major companies such as Marriott, McDonald’s, Apple, and so forth. Then he told his success story. He was the food director for all of Hess Oil, a worldwide company that gave this gentleman more opportunities than he ever dreamed of. So a degree from the CIA does not have to limit you to just a kitchen; the world is our doorstep to limitless opportunities.

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