“My goal was to be a culinary manager in two years. It happened in six months!”
Ray Delucci entered the CIA’s Bachelor’s in Food Business Management degree program because he wanted to ultimately become a leader in the industry. He just didn’t realize how quickly it would get him there.
“After I completed the associate program, I felt there was more to gain from the college in terms of learning the business side of running a restaurant, about profit and loss,” he recalls. “At first I wanted to be a Michelin-starred chef, but in bachelor’s I realized I wanted to manage a team and lead.”
A key step toward that goal was a visit to the college’s Career Fair as a senior. “I met Keith from Hillstone Restaurant Group, and that connection was what eventually got me a job at Hillstone,” he says. After a short stint as line cook at Oliver’s in Buffalo, Ray knew he wanted more, so he re-connected with Hillstone and accepted a job there as manager in training. He must’ve made a good impression. Five months after he was hired, he was named assistant culinary manager—and was promoted to culinary manager just one month later!
“It felt good because it shows they were willing to put their trust in me,” he says. “My hard work and passion paid off. Every day at Hillstone is a good challenge, very rewarding. They’re a very well-respected restaurant group for a reason.”
Ray credits his time at the CIA as a major reason for his rapid rise to a leadership position in the industry. “The argument you sometimes hear—that you don’t need culinary school—is wrong,” he explains. “You won’t learn everything on the line that you learn at culinary school. You make great connections, and the amount of knowledge and exposure to so many things is huge. The CIA really sets you up to handle the industry.”
And it was the people as much as the education that left a lasting impression on Ray. “Every chef and instructor I had at the CIA impacted me in such a positive way,” he says. “From Chef Cerrone, I learned not to go into a kitchen thinking you know it all. Chef Eisenhauer taught me to take responsibility for my actions when things go right and when things go wrong. And Professor Fischetti stressed the importance of compassion for people and empathy when leading a team. I wish I could thank everyone who helped me along the way at the CIA. They really cared for me.”
Totally separate from his work at Hillstone, Ray has another project near and dear to his heart—his podcast Line Cook Thoughts. “It started with the passing of Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to create a platform for chefs to share, connect, and grow with each other in the profession,” he recalls. “To give people a place to go to talk about chefs, to hear something meaningful about other chefs and what they do. I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from people in the industry.”
Ray is approaching the 50th episode of his podcast, quite a milestone for someone who’s also working full-time in a leadership position. “I love that I still do the podcast and still have that connection with chefs,” he says. “It’s very rewarding.” You can listen to all episodes of Line Cook Thoughts here.
Everything that’s happened in his life helped lead Ray Delucci right where he belongs in the food world—especially his time in the CIA’s bachelor’s program. “I took in as much as possible as a student at the college,” he shares. “The passion of the faculty and the leadership roles I took on campus helped me progress, learn the value of patience, and effect positive change. I made great connections...and I’m really proud to have gone to the CIA.”