Major: Culinary Arts Management
Hometown: Redlands, CA
One Wild and Precious Life
Dealing with adversity is something we all have to do at some point in our lives. For Jessica Simone, it was a way of life. But according to the Redlands, CA native, without that adversity she wouldn’t be where she is today, exactly where she wants to be—at the CIA.
“My mom was an alcoholic and drug addict, and that helped shape me,” she says. “To the best of her ability she used food as a source of comfort for me. The one constant for me growing up was food; it created a sense of normalcy and the feeling of wanting to help people.”
Raised by her grandparents, Jessica was always encouraged to take part in the food process. “I had a big family, and my first job was to put flowers on the salad and make name tags and gift baskets for our ‘guests’ at dinner,” she recalls. “When I was eight, I had my first Chilean sea bass with braised fennel and leeks. No one thought I would try it, but I loved it.”
That appreciation for food was strengthened when she did some prep work in a Mexican restaurant while in high school, and remained strong even when she attended UCLA to study anthropology and pre-med. “I absolutely hated it,” she says. “The best part of my day was my job at a pretzel shop. So I withdrew from the program, but I was glad I had explored other options. It made me sure that foodservice was right for me.”
But her family wasn’t so sure. “They hated the decision,” she explains. “They had always worked so hard, and just wanted me to have all the opportunities they didn’t have.” Jessica enrolled at the CIA anyway, and eventually her family came around. “It took a long time for them to accept it, but now I feel fully supported. They know it’s what I love.”
Jessica was feeling the love right away on the CIA campus. “From day one, you’re expected to conduct yourself as a professional, and I love that,” she says. “You have to take initiative and be prepared, long before you graduate. That’s a very big strength of the CIA, and an amazing opportunity for its students.”
While she was a little hesitant to jump right into things at first, eventually Jessica had a revelation. “I thought, ‘Why not me?’ This was the opportunity to be exactly who I want to be. If you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll always regret the things you don’t do.”
At the CIA, she’s done plenty. Student Government Association president, senior resident assistant, justice on the Judiciary Board, student worker at the Student Recreation Center…the list goes on. “I really wanted to be involved, to help people, to be a part of the college. I love the fast pace of life here,” she says. “It really prepares you for life after graduation.”
And she knows exactly what she wants to do after she earns her CIA bachelor’s degree. “I plan on working for an eco cruise line for a few years, then getting a Master’s in the History and Culture of Food from the University of Barcelona and a certificate in Domestic Violence Studies from the University of Colorado,” she shares. “My ultimate goal is to found a unique farm sanctuary and shelter for battered women and children, where healing takes place through connection to and caring for animals, the land, and each other. This would include planting and tending crops to be harvested and eaten in community.”
Such ambitious plans might seem daunting, but Jessica is confident she’s up to the task. “I trust myself. There’s a quotation I hung on my mirror that inspires me, from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’”
Despite the adversity, Jessica Simone has done plenty with her life so far. And the best is clearly yet to come.