Ellen Clevenger-Firley ’13

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Ellen Clevenger-Firley ’13

“The CIA has the best facilities in the country with the highest level of chef instructors. At the CIA, tuition is inclusive—text books, chef’s coats, knives, meals, etc. This means you will not only get an excellent education, but good value for your tuition dollar.” – Ellen Clevenger-Firley ’13

Certificate: ACAP
Campus: St. Helena, CA
Hometown: Hillsborough, NC

How did you become interested in food?
I am a registered dietitian. I have spent many years teaching and counseling people about how to improve their diets and eating habits. There has always been a missing piece. Many people, of all ages and from all walks of life, do not know how to cook. Since I have always been an avid home cook I tried to help them but felt I needed professional training to learn the basic techniques and skills to allow me to create new and healthy recipes.

Who most influenced you?
I attended the Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives conference at Greystone and was enchanted with the quality of the chef instructors, facilities and location. Through this conference I found out about the Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate Program (ACAP) and felt this program would help me learn the skills to fulfill my dream of teaching cooking in a health care setting and creating new and healthy recipes.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
I had to plan in advance to leave my job, take off 10 months, drive across country, and find a place to live in California. My husband and I work on seeing each other every 3-5 weeks. In addition, I have used a portion of my life savings for this life dream.

Do you already have a degree from another college or did you previously have a different career?
I have a B.S. in Home Economics Education and a MS in Nutritional Biochemistry. In addition, I completed a post graduate fellowship to be eligible to take the national registration exam to become a registered dietitian.

Why did you choose the CIA?
Several reasons, the ACAP program, which is a streamlined program just for people who already have a degree, the reputation the CIA has for quality education, the Greystone facilities, and the location—the beautiful Napa Valley.

What do you like best about CIA?
The ACAP program; the quality and approachability of the chef instructors; the quality of the facilities; and the broad variety of the backgrounds of the ACAP students.

What are your career goals/plans?
Although I am not sure in what specific capacity, I plan to combine my training in nutrition and my newly gained culinary skills. It will most likely be in the education field, recipe development, program planning or public health.

Any advice for prospective students?
Make sure when you are comparing culinary programs to look at all aspects of the program. The CIA has the best facilities in the country with the highest level of chef instructors. At the CIA, tuition is inclusive—text books, chef’s coats, knives, meals, etc. This means you will not only get an excellent education, but good value for your tuition dollar.

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