Jillian Druzgala ’13

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Jillian Druzgala ’13

“Most of the pictures of my brother and me when we were little are of us in the kitchen in little aprons and chefs hats that my mom made for us.”
—Jillian Druzgala ’13

Degree: Associate of Occupational Studies
Major: Culinary Arts
Campus: St. Helena, CA
Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA

How did you become interested in food?
I have an interesting mish-mash of cultures that make up my family. My dad is French and grew up there and my mom grew up in the south, so food was always a big deal for us, especially around the holidays. I remember big Thanksgiving turkeys at home surrounded by sweet potatoes and bacon collard greens, and loud, jolly Christmas dinners at my grandparents’ home in France surrounded by so many people that I couldn’t understand! But that didn’t matter because we weren’t there to talk, we were there to share our love of food. Most of the pictures of my brother and me when we were little are of us in the kitchen in little aprons and chefs hats that my mom made for us. My mom likes to tell stories of me running into the kitchen with a piece of paper with some recipe on it that I had copied after watching a cooking show on TV. Food has just always been a big part of my everyday life, and I remember being in the car with my dad when I was 12 and after having a sudden epiphany, I turned to him and said “Dad, when I grow up I want to be a chef.” He scoffed and asked me why, and I replied “because I love to cook, and it’s what I do best.”

Who most influenced you?
My dad’s mom, my Meme. She is your classic European French old woman who spends most of her day cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. She even gets up before everyone else just so she can make everyones’ breakfast, whether it’s toast and beurre or just some plain yogurt. She cooks so much and is always full of such joy when feeding her family. Her joy of cooking really rubbed off on me.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
My mom was very supportive, helping me plan what restaurants I should try to work for and what kind of restaurant I would open up myself someday, but I had to convince my dad that being a chef was the only career choice for me. Then I had to find a college for culinary arts because he wanted me to get a degree. After finding the CIA and convincing him that this was the smartest career move I could make for myself, he was sold. The only challenging part was waiting to graduate from high school so that I could start the beginning of the rest of my life!

Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because it is the most prestigious culinary school in the country, if not the world. Here, not only can I learn the tools of my trade, but I can also learn the math, food safety, and English that will help me to someday open my own restaurant. It was also a big plus that Greystone is located only a half hour away from my hometown and located in the beautiful Napa wine country, which is the place where I want to start my career.

What do you like best about CIA?
The best part about the CIA is not only having classmates who share my passion for food, but also that I am sharing this remarkable experience with others who appreciate it as much as I do. I also like the system in which they set up their educational program. First, they teach you the fundamentals of cooking. Then it gets a little more complicated as you get into more specific types of cooking. Creativity comes later, after you’ve mastered the basics of cooking and can do different techniques without even thinking about it. Essentially, they are teaching you to live and breathe cooking.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I am not a part of any on-campus clubs, however, outside of school I participate in a sport called gymkhana, which is a horse-riding sport, along with barrel racing and recreational soccer clubs.

What are your career goals/plans?
After graduation, I plan on getting as much experience as I can. I would like to move up to Portland, OR for a season and immerse myself in the food culture there. If I can, I would also like to travel to France for a year and practice either modern French cuisine or Provencal cooking, hopefully both. Afterward, I would like to move back to Sonoma County and find a restaurant to work for that really inspires me while building my career. Long term, I would like to open my own restaurant by the time I’m 24, so in 2017.

Any advice for prospective students?
If you really want to cook, or work in the culinary industry, then the CIA is the place to do it. Talk to the counselors to learn about available scholarships, because the CIA is an opportunity that you don’t want to pass up.

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