CASA Success Stories
For years we’ve specialized in bringing affordable, effective, real-world instruction
to individuals who are willing to go the distance. Meet just a few of the CASA grads who’ve launched their culinary careers with us!
“My confidence level, my knife skills, my drive, and, even more—my passion for food… Before this program started, I didn’t know where I would be, where I would belong. I didn’t know what I could do… I didn’t have any knowledge or any real skills in the kitchen, even growing up with my parents’ restaurant, they wouldn’t really allow me in the kitchen. They would always have me in front of house and stuff like that… I wasn’t sure if my skills would be enough. But afterwards now, growing and learning on the line, just doing all the certain things that I’ve done already, it certainly has improved my confidence. It validates that this is really what I want to do. This is what I love.”
“I thought I knew how to hold a knife right, but I guess I didn’t. And [Chef Mathosian] showed me how and…I didn’t know how to stand when cutting. I would lean to one side, [and] cross my legs and she [the chef] fixed that for me. Then I started catching it myself… I was like, ‘Okay, so this is what it’s going to be like.’ And ever since then, she would challenge me and just be like, ‘All right, we’re going to do this, this, this.’ I remember the first few weeks I was just quite nervous because I was feeling everybody out, I didn’t know what to expect… Then I got more comfortable… She helped me improve in a lot, a lot of things…. I learned a lot… I love that I knew what to do and how to make things, and [was always] writing things down in my little notebook of recipes… And so… I became part of the team in a way, which was really cool to feel.”
“Probably two to three months in I really felt like I was growing as a chef, and I could tell because one of my Instagram food friends… just got a cookbook deal and had me as an assistant to help test and develop recipes, then…come out for the shoot. So that happened during the first week of my externship. I split my time for a couple weeks helping her with development and testing. Then when I went back a couple months later, for the shooting of the cookbook…she referenced that I was vastly different in the kitchen and that my comfortability and my ability to do multiple tasks at the same time had really grown since we had developed recipes a couple months prior. So, I know that was all due to time… in the kitchen there with Kristin.”
“I wanted to just get started on something instead of going through the process that I’ve done before, where I go through the school and then I don’t have experience and it’s really hard to get a job without experience, and it’s just back and forth for a long time.CASA’s hands-on apprenticeship approach was clearly a remedy to the usual catch 22.
“When I started CASA, I made it my top priority. So, I got a job where I made sure most of my hours would be in the restaurant [environment], and then I would also work on the side. I fully dove into it. I read as much as I could. I watched YouTube videos every day. I cook at home. I talk to a lot of different people about their opinions on food. I go to the farmer’s market twice a week and I talk to farmers about their ingredients. And I really try and apply myself as much as possible because, personally, I want to be really good at what I’m doing.”
“I was looking at Le Cordon Bleu,” he says, “and I was looking into the other culinary programs, but the price was pretty high. And then when I fell upon CASA…the price was a lot cheaper, and we got to get real experience in the restaurant. And so what drew me was the experience in the restaurant and I thought that that could help me get a job.”With CASA, Francisco was put in prime position to have his talent, commitment, and passion recognized by Chef Ken Takayama.
“Chef Ken saw that I did my tests really fast,” says Francisco, “and so he asked me if I wanted to work at Mélisse a month in…He put me in the morning prep job.”
“I was making a lot of money, but you know what? It doesn’t matter how much money you make,” he says. “If you’re not happy, you don’t care what you’re doing, even though you’re good at it. So one night, I was watching Food Network…I said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I said, ‘God, I want to do that.’ So I was up the next morning, and the exact time was 5:45. I woke up, I shook my wife at 5:45 in the morning. (I’m lucky I’m still alive to tell this story.) But I said, ‘Babe, you know what? I want to be a chef. I want to go to culinary school.’ And she’s half awake, she flinched and said, ‘Oh my God, wow. Oh, that’s great… Yeah, go for it.’ ”Ronnie applied to the program and was paired with Chef Ken Takayama at Mélisse in Santa Monica, California, one of the most lauded fine dining restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Ronnie recalls how quickly he was thrown into the middle of things—on literally the day of his initial interview.
“I met Chef Ken, I sat down with him, I spoke with him for about 20 minutes, half an hour,” says Ronnie. “He asked me a lot of questions. He said, ‘Okay, why don’t you go down there and we’ll see how you do. Spend a day over here.’ I was not planning on spending the day. I was planning on just the interview and then… later on they’re going to give me a schedule. But he wanted to see how I liked it. He put me right on the front lines right away… I really worked hard that day, like I do every day. But that was the first day I did that, and he said, ‘You sure this is what you want to do?’ I said, ‘Oh, absolutely.’ He says, ‘Great. Okay, we’ll make a schedule now, and then we went over the dates he wanted me to come.”
“I’ve learned literally everything. I’ve definitely honed my knife skills a whole lot, a lot of chopping and stuff. And literally this is probably one of the best things I could have possibly done because of the amount of experience I’m getting, because before this I worked warehouse jobs. I never really worked in the food industry. So this is probably the best thing because it gives me work experience. I work on the line with Walter. So I am fulfilling tickets and stuff…it’s really nice because I get to know how the pace is, how fast I have to move, and get used to prepping stuff and cooking stuff. It’s really awesome.”Joey recommends CASA students put in the effort to learn, grow their culinary skills, and soak up all they can while training from inside of the industry.
“My biggest advice is literally just take advantage of going to whatever restaurant they’re at and stay there as long as they can. As long as your schedule allows you to…Just take advantage of it and try to get in on every little aspect in the kitchen, the prep, the line, making other sauces, anything you can do. Try to get on all the positions in the line, to rotating food. Get it all, [and] make sure you keep talking to your chef about stuff.”