My Journey to JWU: Phoenix Gedara '27

Phoenix Hasanthi Gedara will be joining us this fall as a Culinary Arts & Food & Beverage Industry Management major (check out the photos to see the yummy things she's already made!). I chatted with her to learn more about her life and her journey to becoming a JWU student.

phoenix gedara fruit platter

1. Can you share a little about your background?

I live in Massachusetts and come from a large family. I was adopted at the age of three from Sri Lanka (an island off the coast of India). I have overcome some medical challenges in my lifetime and had over 100 surgeries. Despite this, I have never stopped doing anything I want to.

2. How have your experiences shaped you in your life today?

I’ve had many different experiences in my life — from being born in another country, being adopted at the age of three, and moving to a new place at the age of ten. All of this plus having countless surgeries for my burns has allowed me to make different connections with people. These connections and experiences have taught me different life lessons, but the one thing that has always been my constant is I always manage to progress and learn something new and keep cooking through it all. The experiences and things I have witnessed around me have shaped me into the person I am today. All of it has made me want to achieve big goals and strive for better things.

3. What made you want to come to JWU and join the Culinary Arts & Food & Beverage Industry Management major?

 I am lucky to attend an Agricultural in Technical High School with a great culinary program. Most of my chef instructors are JWU alums. I have a great relationship with them. They teach students the skills we need for industry and provide us with an open door for communication. My chefs encouraged me to apply to Johnson & Wales when I told them I wanted to attend culinary school. I decided to apply to JWU even though I was unsure of my exact major. I knew I wanted something culinary-related with a wide background in the field. I thought it would be better to have a culinary and food and beverage management degree because I could learn both the back-of-the-house skills and the management side of the industry. I have time to decide what roles I want to hold later in the culinary world. It is better that I get all the knowledge and skills I can now in culinary school even if I don’t use them all right away.

 phoenix gedara food plates

4. Did you visit campus? If so, what were your first impressions?

I visited JWU this past summer before my senior year of high school. It was part of the three-day Career Explorations Program. I got to experience what it would be like as a JWU student. I enjoyed meeting people who want to be in the same industry as me. I didn’t feel out of place at all, because we all have the same passion for cooking and culinary. It was nice to talk about our passion with each other. This is why I selected JWU to be my college home.

5. What are your goals for the future?

My future goal and why I chose JWU is I hope to graduate from college, and have an internship preferably at a restaurant in New York. Most of my family is from upstate New York and I would like to live close to them. One day I would like to open a restaurant that caters to children and adults who struggle with mental illness. I too, deal with anxiety and can relate to others with these types of struggles. I dream of a restaurant where anyone feels comfortable and is able to order whatever they like without upsetting the waitstaff or kitchen.

6. What are your hobbies and what are you hoping to be involved in at JWU?

Most of my hobbies are related to cooking. However, I also enjoy thrift store shopping with my friends. I love to upcycle clothing. I hope to find a group of friends at JWU that have the same interest from thrifting to baking. In my free time, I like to walk along the beach and go on long drives with my friends. I am also a motivational speaker for a burn hospital.

7. Who has helped you in your college journey?

There are many people in my life that have helped me with my college journey. My mom, dad, guidance counselors and school chefs have played a very supportive role in helping me find the right college for myself. My JWU Admissions Rep, Elena Doerrie, has been a great resource to help guide me through the admissions process and the next steps.

phoenix gedara desert plate

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