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Yum-o! Scholarships: Spotlight on Aria Anastasio

February 25, 2010  • 

A core part of Yum-o!’s mission is helping kids reach their food-related career goals by funding culinary school scholarships. Applications for the 2010 scholarships will be due this spring, so be on the lookout for more information!

For some inspiration, we checked in with Aria Anastasio, a 2008 scholarship recipient who attended the French Culinary Institute (FCI). After working at Marisol at the Cliffs in Pismo Beach, CA upon graduation, Aria currently works at the Cass House in Cayucos, CA while setting her sights on her ultimate dream of opening two cake shops, one on each coast!

Yum-o!: What school did you attend? When did you graduate?

I attended the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City and graduated April 8, 2009

Yum-o!: How did culinary school measure up to your expectations?

Culinary school met, if not exceeded, my expectations. The pace was very fast and intense. I was able to learn what most students learn in 2 years in 6 months at FCI. Nothing was left out though, which was great.

Yum-o!: What was your favorite part of school?

My favorite part of school was living in New York City. It seriously completed the culinary school experience. You have access to every single type of food at any time of day. Being at FCI, we had access to all the greatest chefs. We could attend weekly demos from the best, including Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner, Johnny Iuzinni, Marc Vetri and others. We were also able to volunteer for events and meet chefs. Being in the culinary capital of America definitely made my culinary school experience one of a kind. Also, I made some friends that I will have for a lifetime.

Yum-o!: Is there one Chef-Instructor that had a profound impact on your experience at school?

Jacques Torres, the Dean of Pastry Arts at FCI, impacted my experience in a very large way. The World Chocolate Masters competition was held at my school in November, where I was able to meet him. I ended up chatting with him and getting invited to his boat, where I got to hear first-hand all of his experiences as a pastry chef starting at a very young age in the south of France. That was incredible to hear stories straight from him. He actually ended up hiring my friend and me to work in his Hudson factory. That was great to be able to work with him and his chefs, who are all very talented. It also helped to have a lot of daily practice working with chocolate and pastry. I really appreciate all Jacques did for me throughout my schooling.

Yum-o!: What was the coolest thing you learned?

The coolest thing I learned was that if you add royal icing to poured sugar, it bubbles up and looks just like coral!

Attending FCI in New York City afforded Aria access to some of the best chefs in the world. "The Yum-o! scholarship meant everything to me," reflects Aria. "If not for that, I would not have been able to attend one of the best culinary schools in the country. I would not have met so many amazing people or made so many connections in the food industry. I would not be in the position I am in today. I am so grateful to Rachael Ray and Yum-o! for the privilege I was provided with!" To aspiring culinary students, Aria says, "If you have a goal or a dream, take the initiative to make it happen. Go big! (And make sure your knives are always sharp!)"