ulia Spondike, 19, is a very busy person. In between attending classes at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and doing homework, she works part-time for the school’s strategic marketing department, and in the kitchen at The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, a group home for at-risk children ages 18 months to 18 years.
Spondike has loved cooking since she was little. However, she got more serious about it after her sophomore year in high school at home (she was homeschooled for nine years) in Lorain, Ohio. After much discussion with her family and former students, she decided to enroll in a local trade school for a more concentrated culinary education. Since then, she’s never looked back, earning medals in 12 local and national competitions, including a national champion gold at SkillsUSA in 2017. When that led to a full-ride scholarship to the CIA, she didn’t hesitate to take it.
“I was awestruck and full of overwhelming joy as soon as I heard my name called for the SkillsUSA national awards ceremony,” Spondike says. “I knew my whole life was going to change. I received a packet with a variety of scholarships and sponsor information from the competition, but as soon as I opened the one from CIA, I cried.”
As busy as she is with school and her two work-study jobs, Spondike says competing remains a huge part of her plans. In fact, she recently took bronze in the ACF Student Chef of the Year competition in Buffalo, New York, and at press time was patiently awaiting news about the opportunity to represent the U.S. in WorldSkills 2019 in Kazan. Competitions have helped her feel comfortable leading others as well; since starting at the CIA last fall, she’s already served as “team leader” for her various culinary classes.
“I definitely see myself pursuing a career in food experimentation and product development.”
Spondike plans to earn her associate’s degree from the CIA and then go on to complete her bachelor’s in culinary science. She hopes to use her degrees — and a highly coveted, upcoming externship at McCormick Spices in Baltimore — to possibly pursue a path as a research and development chef. “I definitely see myself pursuing a career in food experimentation and product development,” she says.
I wake up and get dressed in my whites.
Meat identification and fabrication class. Today we watch as Chef Thomas Schneller demonstrates how to break down a whole lamb, and then it’s our turn to give it a try. Tomorrow, I am excited to break down poultry because I know I can already do that in three minutes flat!
I take a break for lunch, and catch up on a little schoolwork.
I head over to the strategic marketing office at Roth Hall for my marketing job. I work on a lot of social media for the CIA, so I’ll post regularly on Instagram and Snapchat, and I also oversee the school’s Facebook page and Tumblr account. On Snapchat we do a lot of “takeovers,” where we have our students cover events that are going on or talk about some of the student clubs and happenings on campus.
Job No. 2: The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie. Tonight I’m helping out at a special event for Black History Month, so we’re feeding double our normal number of 60 kids! We decided to do a Southern-inspired comfort food dinner and made fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, greens, braised oxtail and more. The other night I made a dinner for the students all by myself — ziti with ground beef and vegetables.
Back to my dorm room for a quick shower and bite to eat.
For work, I’m covering a tribute to Chef Paul Bocuse by Dr. Tim Ryan, the CIA president, who had just come back from Chef Bocuse’s funeral in France. I post a lot on Snapchat to get more students to attend and to share all the interesting stories about the legendary chef.
Normally, I catch up on a little homework, but tonight it’s lights out. Class is at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow!