Early Sunday morning, a wildfire (codenamed Glass) started burning near St. Helena. The California leadership team and senior leaders in Hyde Park including President Ryan monitored conditions throughout the day and prepared for a possible evacuation of campus. Late Sunday night, we evacuated 119 students from the residence halls. Most students were able to connect with family or friends for overnight accommodations; 18 students were provided lodging arranged by the CIA through the county. The California team was in continuous contact with CIA leadership throughout, and due to their efforts, the evacuation went smoothly with all students safe and accounted for. Students remained calm and in good spirits despite the situation. They have been real troopers.

While the fire came too close for comfort, Greystone and our residence halls on campus and on Pratt Avenue were untouched.

Currently the Greystone campus is without power as damage is assessed and fires continue to be active in the area. All members of the campus community have been asked to work remotely. We are using The CIA at Copia as a base camp for our operations, and many students will be spending time there today. We will continue to update students, faculty, and staff, by e-mail as needed. Parents, please urge your student to share these notifications, so you have the latest information.

Lauren DeSteno, CIA culinary arts alumni, is chef de cuisine at Marea.

Alumni Bio: Lauren DeSteno '06

Culinary Arts
Chef de Cuisine, Marea
“The Culinary Institute of America was the only school I applied to. I really don’t think there’s another school that covers as much information or exposes you to as much culinary knowledge and cultural diversity as the CIA.”

Lauren DeSteno ’06 knew she wanted to be a chef from the age of eight. “In my Italian-Spanish family, food was the center of everything,” she says. With two grandmothers who encouraged her interest in food, Lauren would scour the grocery store choosing items at random. Then, she’d hurry home to create savory dishes for her extended family. As a teenager, Lauren branched out to catering cocktail parties for her mother’s friends and even spent summers working for a professional caterer.

“As much as I had my heart set on going to culinary school, my parents were hesitant,” says Lauren, chef de cuisine at Marea in New York City, the jewel of the Altamarea Group’s restaurants. “No one in our family worked in the food industry and they were concerned it would be a difficult line of work. My father made a deal with me. He said, if I finished college and still wanted to go to culinary school he would support my choice.” Lauren attended Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance and Spanish.

It was a semester abroad in Seville, Spain that confirmed in her mind a future in the culinary arts. “I lived with a widow who took in students to supplement her income,” says Lauren. “Everyday she would go to the market and bring home simple, incredibly fresh ingredients. To this day, I can taste her fried eggs with peppers.” On graduation day, Lauren’s father asked if she still wanted to attend culinary school. “Without missing a beat, I said yes. The Culinary Institute of America was the only school I applied to and I was thrilled to be accepted,” Lauren says.

“Once I started my classes it was intensive and all encompassing,” she says. “At the CIA there is a certain standard of professionalism that speaks to the fact that you’re training for a career not just a job. There are no excuses. The chef-instructors are very clear about what’s expected. Learn the language of the kitchen, master the techniques, develop your palate and knife skills, and work as a team. It’s not easy but you need to go into it respecting the process necessary to absorb and learn. You have to be open, ready to work hard, and adapt to new things. I really don’t think there’s another school that covers as much information or exposes you to as much culinary knowledge and cultural diversity as the CIA.”

Lauren’s first job after graduation was at the award-winning Eleven Madison Park working under Chef Daniel Humm. “I started as a culinary sous-chef but they needed additional hands in the pastry department. I had the opportunity to work with Angela Pinkerton who is now the executive pastry chef at the restaurant,” recalls Lauren. “I learned so much from her.” Lauren also met Jared Gadbaw there, a connection that would prove significant for her career. “I left Eleven Madison Park to work with Rocco DiSpirito ’86. I did food styling for his television show, Rocco Gets Real, and recipe testing for his cookbooks,” Lauren remembers. “Jared started working with Michael White in preparation for opening Marea. He called me and asked me to come on board as a member of the opening team. Now Jared is the executive chef!”

“At the CIA my classmates came from all over the world, each with different experiences and skill sets,” Lauren explains. “You learn to work together as a team and focus on peoples’ strengths. I see that everyday in Marea’s kitchen. I have to read my staff and delegate accordingly to make our team strong and consistent. I have very high standards, just like the CIA.”

Lauren’s family is incredibly proud of how far she’s come in the culinary world. Now they can say they know someone in the industry.

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