John Cuccia

John Cuccia


Class of: 2008
Degree Program: A.A.S. in Culinary Arts

What factors led you to decide to attend Hudson County Community College?
I started taking classes at the Culinary Arts Institute at Hudson County Community College when I was in high school. The program was recommended to me by a friend who was in the culinary world his whole life. I found the Culinary Program to be very professional, interesting and educational. It is where a part of my foundation as a Chef comes from. I found the instructors to give real life experience that most professors do not have. It was a lot more hands-on than other programs and it was about the skills; which I still use today. Also, obtaining a degree versus a certificate was very important to me, so this was the right choice for me. I was very fortunate to have attended a prominent private high school in New Jersey and basically had my pick of schools. I still chose to go to Culinary School in HCCC.

What is your favorite memory of the College, in or out of the classroom?
I think back and a memory that pops into my head was the day of the annual Gala. This is one of the only places you will see over 100 people preparing for 200 people. I was the first one in the kitchen in the morning and one of the last to leave. It was a 20-hour day and it was worth it. I also remember the Chefs who were in charge saw my passion and encouraged it and fed it. For that I am grateful.

How did your time at HCCC prepare you for your career/ life now?
HCCC especially the Culinary Arts Institute prepared me for what it is like to be in a professional kitchen. It gave me real, hands-on experiences both in and out of the classroom. The externships really started me on a path that led me to where I am now.

Who are your biggest inspirations that have impacted your work in some way?
Who are the people who inspire me? I have been very fortunate to have a great family. First and foremost, my sister and partner Jenna Cuccia. Without her to push me and keep me going, we would not be where we are today. The restaurant industry as a whole has shaped me into the man I am and continuously inspires me. I can name a very long list of great chefs and restaurateurs who I know and have had an impact on my cooking and business. But I am not one to name drop. The industry standard who those before me have created; that is what inspires me and makes me strive to do better and continue to learn and grow.

What advice would you give to recent HCCC graduates?
My advice would be and what I tell most recent graduates “keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.” This means listen, learn, and be a sponge. To be successful, you must be willing to admit you don’t know everything and need experience and knowledge. So, go look for it. Take a job for the experience, not the money. It will get you further in life. Work harder than everyone else and stay humble.

What advice do you have for those students who are just starting their college careers?
If you are just starting college, listen to this. My father always told me “it’s not where you start, it's where you finish.” The small steps we take will eventually lead us to greater things. Work your way though and stay focused. Overcome the little obstacles and they will add up. Also pay attention and do your work. This is college; you don’t have to be there if you don’t want to so do not waste anyone’s time. To the Culinary students, I would advise to ask questions and not just go through the motions. Absorb as much information as you can. Make mistakes in the kitchens in school. After that it is the real deal. Work hard, work clean and do not be afraid to get burnt – it’s going to happen so just keep going