It could easily be argued that Melanie Dunbar has the greatest job on
earth or at sea. She is a chef-instructor at The Culinary Center, the
first cooking school at sea, for premium cruise line Oceania Cruises®.
Melanie teaches hands-on instruction onboard the ships Marina and
Riviera, and leads guests on Culinary Discover Tours™. Dubbed the
“finest cuisine at sea,” The Culinary Center’s executive culinary
director is none other than legendary Master Chef Jacques Pépin and
includes a state-of-the-art facility and the best kitchen views in the
How did Melanie score such a great gig? “I got my job through Career Services
with the help of Career Services Officer Maura O’Meara,” Melanie says.
And what a gig it is. On the Culinary Discovery Tours Melanie guides
guests through local markets at each port-of-call and introduces them to
the freshest, indigenous ingredients. Then it’s back to the ship to
create tasty dishes. “We have set curriculums and offer 20 different
classes to teach adults how to cook,” she explains.
Blessed with a
natural entrepreneurial spirit—Melanie announced to her mother at the
age of five that she was going to be an attorney—her road to a culinary
profession was a circuitous one. Melanie was interested in the culinary arts
in high school, but her mother insisted on her attending a more
traditional college. So Melanie attended Seton Hall University,
graduating with a degree in economics. After graduation, Melanie sold
real estate, owned a self-sustaining farm, performed cooking
demonstrations, and did catering on the side—keeping alive her secret
Fifteen years after graduating from college, Melanie
still had the drive to pursue that passion and attend culinary school.
“It was just time. I was really interested in research and development
and product innovation. I was a self-taught cook,” says Melanie.
“Although I got positive feedback for my cooking, I found out that in
order to really move up in the professional world I had to get a
culinary degree. The CIA exposed me to different channels and connections.”
a career changer, Melanie’s varied background made the transition to
full-time student relatively easy. “I sold the farm and moved to Hyde
Park. I was still selling real estate at the time,” she says. “I
completely embraced everything the CIA had to offer. I felt I was
finally living my life, the life of my choosing.”
Melanie did her
externship at McCormick & Company—often called the Willy Wonka of
the spice world—and was an MIT and opening team member for The Bocuse Restaurant on the CIA’s Hyde Park campus.
“The CIA changed my life. It was everything I ever wanted. It gave me
the confidence to take risks in my personal and professional life. It
gave me a platform and then all I had to do was stand on it. The CIA gives you the world when you go there
and can help you reach for your goals and dreams,” Melanie explains.
“The experience exceeds your expectations. I always say, graduating from
the CIA puts you in the culinary mafia. I can’t go anywhere in the
world without running into a fellow graduate.” That includes her
workplace where Kathryn Kelly ’10, is the executive chef and director of
culinary enrichment at Oceania Cruises and Noelle Barille ’09, is a
fellow instructor at The Culinary Center.