Veterans at NECI: Frank Hill

Frank Hill, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, is currently attending NECI as an AOS culinary students through his GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon benefits and was recently featured in an article written by Alexa McMahon for The Boston Globe:. Alexa McMahon can be reached at

Frank Hill prepares meals for veterans at the Montpelier American Legion

Christopher “Frank” Hill discovered a refuge and career in his garden, where he found solace after returning from Iraq. A visit from his mother sparked a greater interest. As he tells the story, she told him, “You are actually happy. I haven’t seen you like this in years,” and Hill took it to heart.

“It got me thinking, you know what, you are probably on to something,” he says. “[Gardening] made me realize maybe I can help other people.”

In 2013, the Ludlow, Mass., native enrolled at New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., to study culinary arts in the two-year associates program. Hill, 28, hopes to expand his education to agriculture with the goal of opening a restaurant on a farm with other veterans.

After serving in the US Army on active duty from 2007 to 2011, the veteran is eligible for the Post 9-11 GI Bill. The original GI Bill, created by the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, celebrated its 70th anniversary in June. The bill and its subsequent expansions, which offer funds for training and education, are a key resource for veterans transitioning to civilian work.

NECI’s annual tuition and fees are around $24,000 per academic year and the GI Bill covers about $20,000 of that. The Federal Pell Grant and the school’s Yellow Ribbon program cover his outstanding balance. He took out Federal Stafford loans to buy a car.

In addition, the GI Bill gives the vet a monthly $1,600 to $1,800 housing allowance. For cheap rent, he lives in a small cabin in the Worcester, Vt., woods. While he’s a fulltime student, it’s difficult to work another job. “The most expensive thing is food. [The allowance] leaves me right above the poverty line, which is not too fun,” says Hill.

But he has overcome other obstacles. After dropping out of Ludlow High School and subsequently earning a GED in 2004, he tried to enlist in the Army three times but was denied because of a visible tattoo on his neck (not allowed at the time). He held several short order cook positions, but at establishments that didn’t handle food properly or give employees good working conditions.

His grandfather’s World War II stories motivated him to persist in his Army application, and in 2007, he received a waiver and joined 1-21 Infantry Battalion out of Schofield Barracks in Honolulu. That year, the unit deployed to Iraq, where they were stationed at a base in farmland outside of Baghdad. They worked closely with local sheiks and other respected members of the Iraqi communities who helped US forces with redevelopment efforts. Once his unit moved and operated in Abu Ghraib, Hill felt they were making less of a positive impact. “It seemed like more and more money was being spent and not much was being done with it.

“They told us the reason for going over was to ensure freedom and the American way of life,” says Hill. “I never understood why we had to go to Iraq to secure the American way of life.”

Returning to Schofield Barracks in 2009, Hill held cookouts for fellow soldiers and their families. After 15 months of combat, he was happy to offer his comrades a place to relax and eat good food. He spent Fridays and Saturdays cooking, spending as much as $250 of his own money. He even invited soldiers over so he could prepare their favorite meals, and learned diverse specialties from around the country.

Recently at a Montpelier American Legion, he volunteered to cook at the NECI event “Vets Serving Vets.” “To share food with people who are excited and they like it makes everything worth it,” says Hill.

“Vets Serving Vets” NECI event. Spinach lasagna and salad were offered at “Vets Serving Vets.” 


“Vets Serving Vets” NECI event.

Spinach lasagna and salad were offered at “Vets Serving Vets.”

Hill found the transition to civilian life difficult at times. He faced insensitive questions from friends and strangers. At first he responded aggressively but decided it was more effective to answer with a question. “Their whole idea of what the military is like is based off of video games and movies, and a little bit of what they see on the news,” says Hill. “I try to flip it around and make them realize that it’s no video game. Think about what you are asking me and try to put it in my perspective.”

The Boston Marathon bombings was an unsettling time. “I only prayed a few times while I was in the Army. One of the prayers that I said was what happened over there would never come over here,” says Hill. “For me seeing that was devastating.”

He admits to still wrestling with the transition, but culinary school has given him the opportunity to work in an industry he is passionate about. When it’s time to do an internship next year, he wants to work in a fine restaurant where care and thought go into the menu.

NECI allows Hill to apply the high standards he uses in the garden to the kitchen. Some day he’ll get to combine the two.

The original story can be found here.

Posted in NECI, NECI in the News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Vermont: The Perfect Place to Start Your Culinary Career

Why Vermont is the perfect place to learn the culinary arts

For those that have been trying to figure out where to pursue their culinary arts education, few would probably think of Vermont first. Not because there are so few culinary opportunities in Vermont (the New England Culinary Institute is why the regarded as one of America’s best culinary schools), but because there are so many other more heavily marketed schools in much more recognizable locales.

However, if you’re serious about finding a school in one of the best places to study (really one of the top places to study), you’re going to want to look closely at Vermont before deciding on your final destination.

Vermont is incredibly “student friendly”

Certain states throughout America have very specific “personalities”, and if you had to hang a personality on Vermont it would be one that was very open, very friendly, very educated, very honest, and very helpful towards young people and those pursuing their education.

One of the best reasons to study in Vermont is that it focuses so much on assisting students (of the culinary arts or otherwise) as best it possibly can, not only funneling resources to different educational opportunities but also doing everything they can – at a local as well as state level – to make sure that education is a priority.

At NECI, we are committed to assisting potential students as much as possible:

  • We have frozen tuition rates for the years of 2014-2015.
  • We have a financial aid department dedicated to helping you get the money you need
  • Our low student to teacher ratio means that when you’re enrolled you get the personal attention you need and deserve
  • Our students “learn by living it” in our working restaurant kitchens
  • We set up students with internships to help them gain experience

Metro areas are surrounded by rural areas (and Canada is close by)

On top of that, Vermont has a few metropolitan areas throughout the state that are very modern, very urban, and very developed – but the rural areas that most people relate to Vermont to are just a few minutes ride outside of the city.

This guarantees that you’ll be able to enjoy the kind of college or university lifestyle you had always hoped to, without having so many distractions that you aren’t able to focus completely on your studies. This is just another reason that makes Vermont one of the best places to study, and why so many serious culinary arts students focus on the New England Culinary Institute over so many other fine options.

It would also be impossible to ignore the close proximity to Canada and especially Montréal, one of the leading capitals of entertainment, culture, and food in North America. Just a few short hours drive from the southernmost place in Vermont (and just a few moments from the more northern places in Vermont) will have you inside of Canada.

The ability to focus on farm to table culinary approaches

One of the most important reasons that makes Vermont one of the top places to study the culinary arts has to be the focus that the local community has on supporting the culinary world.

You’ll have access to farms and other organizations and services that will produce the freshest ingredients you’ve ever handled, helping you to completely understand why so many are really building up the “farm to table” culinary approach all over America. This is a major benefit is that other locales will never be able to truly enjoy, and one of the best reasons to study in Vermont.

Culinary Students Need to Have Fun

It’s not all about cooking, and Vermont has lots to offer. We are known for world class skiing, gorgeous state parks, hiking and much more.

Posted in NECI, NECI in the News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life After the Serving in the Military

What to do after the military?

If you have spent the last few years of your life serving our nation as a member of its armed services, you have not only earned the respect of hundreds and hundreds of millions of United States citizens but also the right to further your career and pursue the kind of life after the military and that you have always dreamed of.

That being said, here are a few things you’ll want to focus on to help you discover things to do after the military.

Choose a career path that leverages the skills and abilities you learned in the military

You will have a number of very special advantages that you can leverage as a veteran that other people will never have the ability to enjoy – and we don’t just mean the G.I. Bill here (though that is important). You will have developed incredibly marketable skills, personality traits, and a leadership quality that employers are searching for today. With a little help, this should help you make the transition to life after the military much, much easier.

When you’re trying to figure out what can you do after the military, look into careers that:

  • Support the feelings of teamwork that establish in the military
  • Allow you to create things with your hands in a tangible way
  • Give you responsibility and the possibility to earn a leadership position
  • Leverage the assets and training you learned and developed in the military


May we suggest a culinary career?


The culinary field is usually based on team collaboration and in creating things on a daily basis. Discipline is a valued skill in the culinary field as is physical prowess. At NECI, we are committed to giving as much help as possible to the service men and women of our nation when it comes to acquiring the skills necessary to enter this field.

Use the G.I. Bill to further your education

As part of your contract with a specific branch of the United States military, you are entitled to a number of financial benefits in the form of the G.I. Bill.

Not only will these resources allow you to pursue other kind of secondary education you had always hoped to, but they will also alleviate the stress and pressure that doing so may have placed on your everyday life. With this financial burden removed, you should be able to pursue all of the things to do after the military that you had hoped without worrying about the cost associated with each of them.

What to do if you need more money for your education?

If you’re planning on attending NECI, contact our admissions department. Our admissions counselors will help you to connect with our VA Certifying Officer so that you can take advantage of all possible benefits, including those offered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon program, and other benefit programs.

If you have any other questions, contact or call (877) 223-6324 – we’re here to help.


Posted in NECI | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NECI Alum Wins James Beard Award

Since 1985, the prestigious James Beard Foundation selects culinary professionals who made their mark as chefs, sommeliers, restaurateurs, and writers. This year, the foundation nominated nine alumni of New England Culinary Institute as semi-finalists for several categories including Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurateur. Only one earned the prestigious award: Daniel Ahern for the book “Gluten-Free Girl Everyday” which he co-authored with his wife, Shauna James Ahern.


The couple published their first cookbook in 2010, “Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes,” which received critical acclaim from The New York Times as one of the top cookbooks of the year. The publishing of “Gluten-Free Girl Everyday” earned similar praise from the food community at large before earning the ultimate recognition by the James Beard Foundation in the “Focus on Health” category. Ahern was the executive chef of The Hardware Store on Vashon Island, Washington before meeting Shauna and exploring the myriad culinary possibilities of gluten-free cooking.


Daniel Ahern graduated from New England Culinary Institute in 1991, working at Gramercy Tavern in New York City and Papillion in Denver prior to locating to Washington state.


Posted in NECI, NECI in the News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NECI Trains Jay Peak Chefs

With over thirty years experience preparing professionals for the food service, New England Culinary Institute has built a reputation for producing cooks, bakers, and food service managers who are ready to enter the industry. Due to time, the cost of tuition, and other factors, there are many industry veterans who never received formal training at a culinary school, learning and honing skills on the job instead. Now NECI is taking their chef instructors on the road.


“Over the years we have run training programs at Middlebury College, Harvard University, Boston College, and several other institutions with large-scale food production,” says Lyndon Virkler, Dean of Education at NECI. “While we have entry-level cooks, many times the industry workers we train have years of experience, but not all of the foundational skills they need to be successful. The goal for each of these students is to take them to the next level of culinary knowledge and their careers.”


Following NECI’s model of hands-on learning, the five members of the Jay Peak staff take part in a five-day immersion program where much of the class is set in a live production setting. There in the kitchens, they will focus on knife skills, cooking technique, proper sanitation, and station organization. The class also includes the focus of Vermont’s food culture being on locally sourced and seasonal foods, often made from scratch, and how to maintain the quality of the fresh whole foods.

In the classroom, the cooks will work with NECI instructors on the theories behind the cooking and develop a strong sense of professionalism for themselves and their craft.


The culinary school plans to continue this type of training here in Vermont, including a trip to Rutland where NECI chef instructors will work with the staff from several local establishments and the Rutland Regional Medical Center. The training will take place at the Stafford Technical Center for eight weeks beginning July 8, covering much of the same fundamentals training the staff from Jay Peak received.


“Unlike Jay Peak, where staff came to NECI for an intense 5-day training, this will be similar to an internship where staff spend one day each week in class, use that knowledge in their workplace, and return the following week,” said Virkler. Another change will be that NECI is developing a curriculum for staff in the front-of-house positions such as managers, servers and bartenders. “Good service and consistency is important in both the kitchen and the dining room. When one is lacking, the other suffers.”

Posted in NECI, NECI in the News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberal Arts College vs. Cooking School

If you’ve been trying to decide whether or not it’s right for you, your passion, and your career to pursue a college or university that focuses on the liberal arts or attend a cooking or culinary school, this quick guide shows you the major differences between the two.

This is done to hopefully give you the “inside information” you’re looking for to make the right decision, a decision that will have impact on your life for years and years to come!


Difference between culinary school and college

NECI offers options to suit all types of culinary students


What is the difference between liberal arts and culinary arts?

There is a world of difference between the liberal arts and culinary arts, even if it may not seem like there is much of a difference on the surface.

After all, liberal arts is mostly used as a “umbrella” or “catchall” designation for specific areas of study and do not fit some of the more specialized fields of study like the sciences, math, and other degree programs.

Liberal arts programs can be beneficial if you are interested in pursuing a career down that path, but as far as a career in the culinary world is concerned they just aren’t going to cut it. Obviously, if you have a liberal arts degree and then decide to attend a culinary school we’re talking about something completely different.

Is culinary arts considered liberal arts?

If you’ve been wondering whether or not culinary arts are considered liberal arts, hopefully the above information gives you the extra insight you need to understand that they aren’t one in the same – though some people certainly try to lump them into gather.

In reality, culinary arts share much more similarities to the math, science, and engineering side of advanced and higher educational opportunities because of all the science that goes into fundamentals of cooking.

Should cooking school be considered liberal arts as far as education is concerned?

This is quite an interesting question, and really comes down to how you feel about the culinary arts world in particular and whether or not it has a place integrated in with the rest of the liberal arts.

Most people are quite happy with the set up as it is arranged today, with culinary arts schools, institutes, and universities hosting their own programs with their own resources, and liberal arts solutions doing the same thing.

If I am interested in entering the culinary field, should I attend liberal arts school?

If you are interested in pursuing a culinary education, you’re going to want to find the right culinary school in your local area (or the best culinary school nationally), as a liberal arts school or a liberal arts program may not be able to deliver you the kind of foundational education you are searching for. For example, at NECI, you “learn by living it.” This means that you learn culinary skills in a real restaurant kitchen with real customers. This will not only prepare you for the everyday demands of a culinary career, but it will also make you a more desirable candidate when applying for culinary jobs (just see what Tom Colicchio had to say about NECI graduates). At NECI, we also offer courses to teach you the business acumen that is specific to the culinary field. Running a restaurant and handling its finances is quite different than any other business. Because of our vast network of culinary alumni, we also have the resources to help you find employment when you’ve graduated from NECI.

If you’d like more information about a culinary education at NECI, give us a call or send us an email.

Phone 877-223-6324 or 802-223-6324


Posted in NECI | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment