Nicolas Anderson CIA ACE student and Coast Guard veteran

Spotlight On: Nicholas Anderson '16Associate Degree in Culinary Arts for Advanced Career Experience Students (ACE)

Hometown: Yakima, WA
Military Branch: U.S. Navy, U.S. Coastguard
"I researched all the different culinary schools, and the CIA was the best fit for me specifically because of the curriculum.

How did you become interested in your major?
While I was in the military as a cook, I received a new assignment. I was to be the commanding officer’s “personal chef.” I was extremely nervous about this and didn’t know what to expect. I had a meeting and was told I would be creating all the commanding officer’s menus as well as preparing and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All meals would be vegetarian with caloric limits and other dietary restrictions. The captain would also have guests invited to dinner parties and I was expected to create formal meals and formal meal service for this once a week. By this time I had been cooking for five years and had developed confidence in my abilities as a cook. However, this took me completely out of my element. I took the challenge head-on and learned everything I could about vegetarian cuisines—and over time my skills sharpened dramatically. The assignment was a success and it was one of the best times I had in the military. But something was missing. The experience made me realize how much I had to learn in the world of culinary arts. I started researching, and soon after I applied to the CIA. My goal was to become as knowledgeable as possible and to choose a path that would lead me to become a bonafide chef. I was convinced that the CIA was the right choice and here I am today pursuing my dreams, not settling for less.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue this career?
My parents and I come from a family of farmers. Agriculture and good food have always been a big part of my life. Thinking back, it seems like just yesterday that I was surrounded by the beautiful scenery of apple and cherry orchards. I was privileged enough to be raised by wonderful parents who were great cooks—whether it was my mom’s delicious apple pie and peanut butter cookies, or my dad’s famous salmon on the grill. My parents have influenced me the most. They’ve taught me that hard work, dedication, humility, and honesty are the keys to achieving your goals in life.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Before I became a student at the CIA, I had been in the military for 10 years. That’s halfway to retiring. It was a difficult decision to leave. However my mindset was this: there’s only one life to live and we have one shot at achieving our goals and dreams. I decided to give up that career and start a new journey into the unknown. It was a very difficult decision, one that I think about every day. In the end I went with my gut feeling, and I can live with that no matter the outcome.

Why did you choose the CIA?
I researched all the different culinary schools, and the CIA was the best fit for me specifically because of the curriculum and the fact that I would be receiving an associate degree with an option for a bachelor’s.

What do you like best about the CIA?
What I like best is that there is a big support system for the students to fall back on, and the faculty has a genuine seriousness and care for what they are doing.

What are your career goals or plans right after graduation?
For now I’m just taking it day by day, but I do have thoughts of starting a wedding catering business with its own venue surrounded by apple and cherry orchards!

What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending the CIA?
Take your time, and come visit the campus. Do lots and lots of research, ask seasoned professionals, and be sure this is the career and desired path you truly want to take. In the end, go for your dreams and pursue a path that you believe will bring you happiness, fulfillment, challenge, and something you can be proud of.

The Culinary Institute of America

1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499