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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!

CASA, the Chef Apprentice School of the Arts, believes getting you learning from a seasoned culinary arts professional and building connections within the industry is a great way to launch your career in culinary. Training directly under the very same professionals who do the work, day-by-day, is the commonsense, effective way to learn the skills you need to be relevant in today’s job market. Our curriculums are written by experts in the field and are geared towards making the most of the time you spend as an apprentice/extern at the restaurant where you train, enabling you to learn more in less time.  

Because success comes to those who seize opportunities every chance they get.

CASA grad Justin Zhao (center) with Chef Iñaki Aizpitarte (right) and sous chef Antonio – just a couple of the chefs he worked with at the Lexus All-Star Chef Classic (Los Angeles, CA).

When CASA Career Services Lead Advisor reached out to the just-graduated Justin Zhao, Justin could’ve said no. He could’ve shunned the opportunity of connecting with chefs and working what would undoubtedly be a toilsome, yet memorable, weekend but that just isn’t Justin’s story. Instead, Justin said yes, got himself noticed, and got job offers from more than one famous chef!  

Justin tells us how he’s grown during his time in CASA’s 6–9-month culinary apprenticeship.

“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.”

Find out how this CASA graduate received multiple job offers from famous chefs!


Because doing what you love can take you far.


CASA graduate Josmira Batista on the line at Sandbar

After spending years in school training to be a nurse, Josmira Batista got honest with herself about what she loved—food! After that, CASA was able to put her in position where she could prove herself and get hired at the high-end restaurant where she trained!

  Josmira says being open to learning (even the things she thought she knew) was instrumental to her growth during her culinary externship at Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.  
“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.”

Learn how Josmira said yes to learning and earned herself a spot on the line of the high-end NY restaurant where she trained in culinary!


CASA grad Cody Woodside at The Green Pheasant (Nashville, TN)


Because you see the silver lining and commit to working hard.


What happens when a television producer finds themselves “merged” out of a job? If they’re like Cody Woodside, they build their culinary savvy and get that “cutting edge” by training with a CASA mentor like Chopped Champion, Chef Kristin Beringson.

  Cody shares the moment he and a friend noticed just how far he’d come in just a matter of months.  
“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.”

Find out how Cody built professional culinary skills with CASA. See how he’s using his culinary smarts in his new production job!


CASA graduate Rachel Ulansey working with Hoshigaki

Because the “Catch 22” just isn’t for you.


CASA graduate Rachel Ulansey bypassed the “catch 22” and got hired at the high-end restaurant where she trained. How’d she do it? Going above and beyond was one crucial ingredient in her success. Choosing CASA was another.

“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.”

Find out how Rachel made herself an asset to the team and got hired at Scratch’s new plating-menu-only restaurant in Los Angeles!

         Francisco Ahn

Because you say no to overpriced culinary school tuition.

Francisco Ahn said no to high-priced culinary school and yes to hands-on experience and got hired at Mélisse, a world-renowned fine dining restaurant within a month of starting his externship!

“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.”

Learn more about how Francisco got hired in the culinary arts, then promoted at Mélisse!

CASA graduate Ronnie Dettman

CASA graduate Ronnie Dettman

Because your passion can’t be put on the backburner.


Wakeup calls rarely happen at an opportune time. Ronnie Dettman’s came at 5:45 am. With CASA’s help, he changed his life.

From all outward appearances, Ronnie had it made: a wife, a family, and a successful career as the regional director for a major resort company. But something was missing. He realized what that “something” was at what some might consider a less than opportune time.  
“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.”

Learn more about Ronnie Dettman’s career change and his culinary training with CASA.


Joey Mendes and CASA mentor Chef Walter Cotta at L’Opera (Long Beach, CA)

Because you’re willing to go above and beyond to build the career you want.


Finding himself unhappy working a warehouse job, CASA graduate Joey Mendes found The Chef Apprentice School of the Arts when he’d started researching schools where he could learn more about his newfound passion—cooking.

  Joey says training under the direction of Chef Walter Cotta at the high-end award-winning Italian restaurant L’Opera got him trained and ready to work in today’s culinary world, fast!  
“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.”

Learn how Joey launched his culinary career in months.

    We believe passion is the key ingredient for a successful future in food. If you are seriously dedicated and make the most of opportunity, you will succeed.   Our mission at CASA is to help deserving individuals achieve their goals of pursuing careers in the culinary arts for less money and in less time. We believe massive student debt kills dreams and thwarts people’s chances at future success.   To learn more, contact one of our helpful admissions representatives. We have zero application fees, set-up fees or hidden charges. Before you pay one penny or sign up with our program, you will be able to meet your prospective mentor and interview with them as well as tour the restaurant or kitchen where you will train. Prior to any commitment, you will have the opportunity to get a first-hand look at how our program operates without any financial commitment whatsoever. We look forward to answering any questions you may have or to discuss your future plans with you.  

CASA Schools provides affordable, unique education models coupled with mentor-based (externship) programs that can be engaged remotely or in person.

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