CIA Alumni Profiles

Lifetime membership in an exclusive club—that’s what awaits you as a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. Our 48,000-strong network of alumni can testify to the exceptional value of a CIA education. With your CIA degree in hand, you don’t just have a foot in the door—you have thousands of feet in the door. The list of celebrated CIA alumni is as diverse as it is extensive. John Besh, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Susan Feniger, Johnny Iuzzini, Roy Yamaguchi, Sherry Yard—these are just a small sampling of our many alumni leaders. They’ve found success doing what they love. They fully embraced the idea that Food is Life. Now it’s your turn.

Clifford Pleau ’81, Vice President of Research & Development at Bloomin Brands, Inc.

Clifford Pleau is the vice president of research and development at Bloomin Brands, Inc., which operates and franchises more than 1,500 restaurants under five casual-dining brands including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Roy’s. Pleau’s focus will be on Bonefish Grill’s menu and the overall healthy menu infusion at … [Read more...]

Melissa Kelly ’88, Executive Chef of Primo Restaurant

Melissa Kelly is the executive chef and proprietor of Primo located in Rockland, Maine. She is the 1999 James Beard Foundation Awards winner for Best Chef, Northeast. Chef Kelly grew up on Long Island. Her earliest cooking lessons took place in her Italian grandmother’s kitchen. In fact, she still favors Mediterranean accented foods. Melissa attended the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, … [Read more...]

Ivan Orkin ’93 Chef/Owner of Ivan Ramen

Ivan has always been obsessed with the language and culture of Japan. At the University of Boulder he majored in it. But his passion for food brought him to the CIA and, for a time, Japan faded into the background. He worked at Lutèce, Mesa Grill, and for Restaurant Associates, but there was always something missing. After he married a Japanese woman, the choice became clear. Tokyo became home to … [Read more...]

Scott Fredel ’93, Executive Chef/Owner Pilar

Scott Fredel is the Executive Chef/Owner of Pilar, a Aventura, FL restaurant venture. Selected as one of the 10 Top Chefs in South Florida by Ocean Drive Magazine, Scott, like so many other successful foodservice professionals, got his start at The Culinary Institute of America. After graduating from the CIA in 1993, Scott honed his skills with culinary masters and successful restaurateurs such … [Read more...]

Dennis Chan ’00, Owner and Executive Chef of Blue Bamboo

Florida is Dennis Chan's home, but to hear him talk about it, the CIA in Hyde Park still holds a big piece of his heart. "I really value the experience I had at the CIA," he says. "I try to be as much of an ambassador for the school as I can." Dennis currently has three employees whom he is encouraging to attend. And he does a lot of cooking demos for culinary students at the local community … [Read more...]

William Wilo Benet ’85 Owner and Chef of Pikayo

When Wilo Benet first began his career, he played the drums to relax, enjoyed a round of golf on a sunny day, and took photographs of nature just for fun. But now that he is the head of a growing culinary empire, those three pastimes have become part of his work. A golf outing almost always includes talk of business ventures. His photos of wildlife have been commissioned by a local resort to … [Read more...]

John Besh ’92, Owner and Executive Chef of John Besh Restaurants

Acclaimed chef John grew up hunting and fishing in Southern Louisiana, learning at an early age the essentials of Louisiana's rich culinary traditions. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, his talent and drive have earned John critical kudos from the outset of his career: in 1999, Food & Wine named him one of the "Top 10 Best New Chefs in America." In 2003, Gourmet magazine … [Read more...]

John Barricelli ’80, Owner and Chef of SoNo Baking Company and Café

John Barricelli had a vision: to offer simple, delicious food in a homey atmosphere. His dream became reality in 2005, when he opened the doors to the SoNo Baking Company and Café. Located in the vibrant SoNo (South Norwalk) district of Norwalk, CT, the bakery café offers everything from artisan breads and French-style pastries to soups and sandwiches. Customers are encouraged to sit back with a … [Read more...]

Sonia Arias ’00, Owner and Executive Chef of Jaso

In success, as in many things, timing often plays a major role. You could say that Sonia Arias is blessed with impeccable culinary timing. From the instant she and Jared Reardon met and fell in love while BPS students at the CIA to the moment they opened the doors of their new restaurant, Jaso, they have made well-timed and well-thought-out career choices that are sure to lead to success. While … [Read more...]

Grant Achatz ’94, Chef/Owner of Alinea, Next, The Aviary, and The Office

Innate curiosity and devotion to precision and control, traits he shares with his mentor Thomas Keller, have brought Grant Achatz from his parents’ restaurant kitchen in Michigan to international attention and acclaim. As chef and co-owner of Alinea, Next, The Aviary, and The Office in Chicago, Achatz has been recognized with multiple kudos. His James Beard Foundation awards include the 2003 … [Read more...]