Tasha Mabin’s dream of attending The Culinary Institute of America started in her freshman year of high school. “During my home economic classes I found I had a knack for cooking,” says Tasha, assistant manager at the Compass Group in Washington, DC. “We had a representative visit from the CIA who did a demonstration on salts and showed a video of the school. I was entranced; the school was so beautiful. Right then and there I decided it as my dream school.”
With that singular goal in mind Tasha enrolled in Mercer County Technical vocational school in Pennington, NJ during her junior year. “My instructor, Scott Engle ’89, showed me what a culinary career could be, and got me involved in SkillsUSA competitions. I also worked at a fine-dining Italian restaurant as a tournant so I got a chance to work different stations.”
With her varied experience, Tasha entered the CIA with confidence. “I fell in love day one,” she says. “Everyone who goes to the school has one common goal and passion, and you’re learning from the best. The chef-instructors train and hone you, and instill in you a sense of professionalism.”
While her love of all things culinary took up most of her days, a flyer at the Student Rec Center introduced Tasha to another outlet she became equally passionate about: Dodgeball. “My first week at school I saw a sign that read Dodgeball 7 p.m. I went on a lark and had so much fun I kept returning to play,” Tasha says. “It’s a sport that’s different than any other I’ve played; you’re always thinking about your next move. For the next three and a half years, I never missed a game.”
During her time at the CIA, Tasha found her interest veering toward working front-of-the-house. “My first job after graduation was as a server at VOLT, owned by Bryan Voltaggio ’99,” Tasha says. Settled in her job, it took Tasha several months before she finally found a dodgeball league. When she relocated to Washington, DC to work at Good Stuff Eatery, the popular Washington, DC burger concept from Spike Mendelsohn ’05, Tasha joined the United Social Sports league. “The team is far more advanced in every aspect of the game. To be the best you have to train with the best, just like the CIA,” she says.
Her teammates encouraged her to apply to play on the international recognized USA Dodgeball Team. “On April 1, 2014, I got the call to join the team.” Tasha practiced hard every week for the Dodgeball Team World Championship held in June 2014 in Hong Kong. Last year the US team placed second but this year the team was victorious and brought home the gold medal! “To play in an arena where thousands of spectators are chanting against you was probably one of the biggest motivating factors for us,” Tasha says. “We didn’t let the cheers bother us and ended up having some local Hong Kong fans cheering us on. It was the best experience I ever had and I’m happy that my passion for dodgeball stemmed from being a student at the CIA.”
Life moves quickly and while preparing for the tournament Tasha was given an opportunity with the Compass Group that she couldn’t pass up. “I’m responsible for front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house duties at the Census Bureau,” she explains. “I create new menus for the onsite cafeteria with rotating stations that change weekly and I oversee a satellite Au Bon Pain shop. My garde manger department preps for three separate “grab ’n go” accounts we have offsite before assisting with lunch service. We only do breakfast and lunch so my schedule is daytime hours Monday through Friday. It’s the best hours I’ve ever worked in my whole life!”
Tasha is now a judge for SkillsUSA competitions, encouraging young students and leading by example. “I’m quite sure that my degrees from the CIA has gotten me every job I’ve had so far, Tasha explains. “Employers know they’re investing in quality when they recruit a CIA graduate.” It seems that Tasha’s dreams are coming true for both of her passions.