By Neree Aron-Sando
After Jackie Williams, 22, graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute (CAI) of Montgomery County Community College in December 2014, she headed to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” following in the footsteps of CAI Director Chef Francine Marz.
“During my first year as a pastry student, Chef Marz brought the Disney Culinary Program [DCP] to my attention. I thought the idea was awesome, considering Disney World is my favorite place,” Williams explained.
After an intensive application and interview process, Williams was accepted into the program. “I chose to accept the offer for many reasons. First, why not? It is such a recognizable and outstanding company. Everyone knows who Disney is, and if they see that on your resume, you can get pretty far.”
The program runs from January until June. “I will not only be working at The Art of Animation Resort, but I will also being taking two seminar classes: Guest Services and Leadership Skills. When those classes are finished, I will receive completion certificates,” Williams said.
“Jackie is such a kind-hearted, fun-loving and energetic person. I’m so happy that she got accepted into the program,” Chef Marz said. “I know Disney is the perfect place for her. We are all so very proud of her!”
Williams’s acceptance into DCP is an honor for the Harleysville woman, but it also reflects very well on CAI. “This puts CAI on the same playing field as the larger, more prestigious culinary schools and lets everyone know that we have the same if not better quality student than the other schools,” Marz said. “This is a game changer for us because Walt Disney World, one of the most admired companies in the world, has seen what our students are capable of and likes what we are doing so much that they are now investing in our students.”
Marz participated in DCP herself almost 20 years ago. “It was one of the best experiences I ever had,” she said. “It changed my life, and I’m so happy that Jackie has paved the way for other students from CAI to work for Disney. It’s just now a matter of time before the secret is out and people know that the students of The Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery County Community College are getting the same wonderful opportunities they get at the larger culinary schools but for a lot lower tuition!
Williams earned an Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts at CAI in December 2014.
“I chose Montgomery County Community College because it was close to home and convenient to work and because of cost—almost half of what culinary students pay to go to some other culinary schools, but you receive the same amazing education and skills from the top chefs all over the world. The chefs really take the time to work with you one on one and that makes a great difference.”
Williams is keeping her options open. “As of right now, I have no concrete plans for the future. I am enjoying the Disney College Program and hopefully when I am finished, doors will open for me and I can take my future from there,” she said.
“One more thing: I owe everything to Chef Marz and to all the other chefs and instructors who helped me through my journey at The Culinary Arts Institute. They are the reason why I had the opportunity to pursue The Disney College Program. Everyone at CAI is incredible and I am incredibly honored to say that I got to work with such amazing chefs.”