Elizabeth Grandchamp ’10, Event Coordinator, Oenotri Restaurant

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Elizabeth Grandchamp ’10

“The CIA helped me learn to deal with different personalities, multitasking, seeing the big picture, and developing ‘kitchen ears’ so you know what everyone else is doing.” – Elizabeth Grandchamp ’10

Certificate: ACAP
Hometown: Bethesda, MD

From Sandwiches to Soirees
While most kids were lounging on the beach or playing in the surf on their vacations, nine-year-old Elizabeth Grandchamp was a little more industrious. Liz was drawn to the Three Sisters Sandwich Shop, a breakfast and lunch business on Block Island, RI. “I asked if I could help out and they let me bag the sandwiches,” says Liz, now the event coordinator at Oenotri, an Italian restaurant in Napa, CA. “I went back every summer, eventually rising through the ranks from dishwasher to lead sandwich maker and, later, to shop manager. As I got older, I started working at a high-end restaurant as a line cook.”

Leaving the beach behind to attend North Carolina University in Raleigh, Liz continued to work in the restaurant industry. After graduating with her degree in tourism management, she decided she needed more concrete culinary skills before entering another professional kitchen. However, “I had just finished a four-year degree and I didn’t want to enter into another long program,” Liz explains. “So I started doing some research online and found the Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate Program at The Culinary Institute of America. The timing was perfect. In eight months, you’re ready to start your career. Plus, the idea of going to school in California was really appealing.”

Going into the ACAP with so much restaurant experience was a double-edged sword. “I’m a better worker than student, so I was a little nervous about the academics,” Liz says. “It was the first time I took the love of the work and put it together with school, but I ended up really enjoying the classes. The struggle came with the changing chef-instructors: every chef does things differently. It’s like going into a new restaurant kitchen every few weeks, but you learn how to adapt—plus, each chef places a good deal of focus on the culinary basics. The CIA helped me learn to deal with different personalities, multitasking, seeing the big picture, and developing ‘kitchen ears’ so you know what everyone else is doing. Even though you work as an individual, you can see everything coming together as a whole.”

While Liz’s career goals were initially focused strictly on the kitchen, her experiences at the CIA opened her eyes to additional possibilities. “At school I worked for the Catering Department doing a number of events, including the Worlds of Flavor conference,” she says. “I also worked with chef-instructor Bill Heubel at his Beyond the Kitchen farm dinners as front-of-the-house manager. I learned so much and gained invaluable experience. I really don’t think I would have had the confidence to move to the front of the house without the ACAP.”

Liz felt the intensity of the ACAP was of real benefit to her and her classmates. “We thought of it as our graduate school,” she says. “Where else can you cut into a huge tuna or break up a whole animal and have the ability to make a mistake? I’ve kept all my notebooks, books, and papers in binders and often refer back them.”

Plus, having the CIA on her résumé sets Liz apart. “I have a lot of experience, but it’s nice for the chefs to see I took the extra initiative to go to the CIA,” she says. “That kind of education is something I really appreciate and will always stay with me.”

It’s an education Liz is putting to good use at Oenotri, where she handles all inquiries and party details, including contracts, menu development, and scheduling. She also nurtures relationships with owners of destination locales for off-site catering events and with members of the local community. “I made so many wonderful connections during my time at the CIA that I was able to stay in the area,” Liz says. “I love the Napa Valley and the farming culture. The produce out here is ridiculous and, of course, there is the wine.”

After years of hard work and a top-notch education, Liz now enjoys fulfilling other people’s dreams of the perfect party. The former beach girl is happily planning soirees amidst the fertile gardens and vineyards of Napa Valley.

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