Nathan Gunderson, CIA Associate Degree in Culinary Arts student in New York and U.S. Army veteran

Veteran Bio: Nathan Gunderson

Associate Degree in Culinary Arts
Hometown: Portland, OR
Military Branch: U.S. Army
"Getting involved opens so many doors for your present and future. Be someone that everyone wants to work with; it will take you far in life and this business."

How did you become interested in food?
When I was a child, my great-grandparents owned restaurants. While spending my summers with them, I would work in their restaurants and always felt comfortable in the kitchen. This led me to work numerous jobs in the service industry growing up. I fell in love with food at an early age because of these memories.

Do you already have a degree from another college?
Yes, I have my AOS in Software Engineering from Portland Community College.

Why did you choose the CIA?
When I completed my service and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, I pursued a career in engineering but found out quickly that it was not what I was passionate about. I found myself still working catering events for my chef friends in the Portland area for fun and realized this was the career path I truly wanted to be involved in. I am using the remainder of my GI Bill to attend the best culinary school in the country.

How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
They have helped me tremendously. I have the GI Bill from the military which pays for most of my tuition. The CIA has matched the remaining balance to allow me to attend this school based off of my military service and the Yellow Ribbon Program. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the help the military and the CIA has provided me to gain an education necessary for me to be in the restaurant industry when I graduate.

What do you like best about the CIA?
The staff here at the CIA. They have been instrumental to my success in every aspect. The amount of networking both in and outside of the CIA is incredible. I have been taking full advantage of this to set myself up for success while I attend school here and for my future after I graduate from the CIA.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
Yes, I belong to a few actually. I am currently working in the Student Learning Gardens, I’m vice president of the Veterans Club, and the veterans student representative on the Student Government Council. Most recently, have I’ve obtained a position in the admissions office—with help of Susan Lavender—as the veterans liaison for prospective veteran students as well as currently enrolled veterans here on campus.

What is your favorite dish to make?
I would say my “go to” dish is anything breakfast but specifically huevos rancheros and Eggs Benedict. Everyone loves breakfast at any time of the day.

How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
The academic program here dives deeply into the business aspects of the service industry, from creating menus to attracting all types of potential customers to front-of-house management.

What are the best lessons you’ve learned while at the CIA?
Be friendly. Really care about other people here on campus. Getting involved opens so many doors for your present and future. Be someone that everyone wants to work with; it will take you far in life and this business.

What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
I plan on running a full-circle farm-to-table operation. The CIA provides the highest level of education, bar none. Working with the Applied Food Studies program in the garden is really providing me a level of understanding of this side of the business that I wasn't expecting. It has been a lot of fun.

What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
To the prospective student:  The campus, facilities, and instructors here are the best. You won’t be disappointed. It really is the best culinary school in this country. The opportunity the CIA provides is beyond what I expected.
To the currently enrolled student: Get involved! You seriously never know who you will meet and what connections you will establish. I have created so much opportunity for myself and others by getting involved. Have a goal and work towards it every day. The faculty here will help you to achieve these goals especially if you are active here on campus.

Contact Us

The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499