LaGuardia Student Lizzi Bolger Turns Up the Heat on a Culinary Career
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (March 08, 2023) — Elizabeth (Lizzi) Bolger’s search for an affordable college where she could get the training and degree that would allow her to make a mid-career change led her to LaGuardia Community College.
Lizzi, age 37, spent more than a decade working for museums and galleries like the Museum of Arts and Design, the Guggenheim Museum, and Christie’s Auction House, as an exhibition associate and gallery manager. She also managed a photography and videography company for many years.
“I was ready for a change; however, I didn’t want another four-year program,” said Lizzi, who holds a bachelor’s in art history from SUNY Purchase, and a Master of Arts from Christie’s Education, part of Christie’s Auction House.
Her enthusiasm for cooking was her motivation to find a new career.
“I looked for a two-year program that would help me pursue a career as a chef—I’ve always loved to cook,” said Lizzi. “I chose LaGuardia because it had the major I wanted, Nutrition and Culinary Management, and the most options. I liked how each semester is broken up into two sessions, which gave me a lot of flexibility with my course schedule, and I was drawn to its diversity.”
Lizzi has been impressed with the quality of education and the numerous opportunities she’s found at LaGuardia. She credits Dr. Nicolle Fernandes, director of the Nutrition and Culinary Management program, for encouraging her to apply for Project SEMBRAR at LaGuardia.
Project SEMBRAR is a U.S. Department of Agriculture funded internship designed to develop the next generation of urban STEM agricultural leaders. Through a three-week paid internship in the summer of 2022, Lizzi learned about cultivating crops in sustainable ways. Through Project SEMBRAR, the Spanish word for “grow or to plant,” Lizzi and her fellow interns visited a rooftop garden, a water treatment facility, and an aquaponics farm, and learned about soil testing and how pollenating insects make green spaces.
After completing her internship, Lizzi embarked on a seminal culinary internship with the New York Jets football team.
“I needed 180-hours of field experience for my major,” Lizzi said. “LaGuardia has a program to help students find internships, and I was thrilled to get invited to work for The Jets for the 2022 playing season. I learned so much about how an industrial kitchen functions, how to make bulk meals, how to butcher large cuts of meat, and how to fillet fish. We worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, making five meals a day for the players, as well as meals for the coaching staff, press, special events, etc. We ran several dining rooms full-time, all with different menus, in addition to catering special events. It was an incredible experience.”
Lizzi put the technical skills gained through her classes at LaGuardia to work in the Jets’ kitchens.
“At LaGuardia I learned about recipe conversions and how to increase the size of a batch,” Lizzi said. “This came in handy at the Jets, because we’d often get a recipe that was not meant for 100 big men, so we’d have to majorly increase the yield. I was able to do the conversions in my head, which impressed the head chef.”
Lizzi’s experience with The Jets led her back to working at a museum—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, except this time she is a chef. Lizzi says she is grateful for the guidance and experience she received at LaGuardia.
“LaGuardia faculty really want to help you and see you succeed. Dr. Fernandes has been in my corner since the beginning,” said Lizzi who plans to graduate from LaGuardia in the next two years. “I’ve had a lot of college experiences and LaGuardia stands out because of how caring the faculty is, and how willing faculty are to look at what you’re good at and steer you in that direction. It’s a personalized environment.”
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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.