A Veteran Opens His Mind to Vegan Cooking and Baking
Andrew Reinicke's Journey from the Army to Culinary School
Inspired by his maternal grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran-turned-cook, former Army officer Andrew Reinicke (Health-Supportive, '21) found his true calling at the Institute of Culinary Education.
The oldest of nine children, Andrew has always associated food with bonding. He remembers that his paternal grandmother, who grew up on a dairy farm in South Dakota and moved to Southern California to open a chain of creameries, was perpetually in the kitchen. “It was her joy to serve food and my fondest memories are sitting around my grandparents’ kitchen table, eating, playing cards and connecting.”
After excelling at theater and debate in high school in San Diego, Andrew, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. “People told me I was passionate about politics, but there was something special about human beings and food, and that intrigued me from an early age,” he says.
He majored in political science at UCLA and then moved to Washington, D.C. to work at a think tank. Eventually, he joined a former classmate teaching U.S. history at a high school until he was compelled by a duty to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the Army at age 30.
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Andrew went to Officer Candidate School after enlisting. As an officer, he handled supply chain logistics for weaponry, munitions and equipment, getting “beans and bullets” where they needed to be. He received permission to pursue a doctoral degree at Claremont Graduate University in political philosophies but faced a challenge.
Andrew was diagnosed with epilepsy, causing him to withdraw from his program at Claremont and be processed out of the military. Fortunately, Andrew’s family, friends and faith got him through this difficult time. The military also provided recreational therapy to help guide Andrew on his new path. Ultimately, he came to a positive discovery.
“What made me happy wasn’t the recreational therapy, it was cooking,” he says. Unsure about what to do next with that information, he headed to church and prayed. While kneeling, images began to appear, from mustard seeds to the Last Supper.
“All of these different parables of Jesus of Nazareth came to mind,” he recalls. “They were all centered around food and that was my answer. It was very powerful.” Andrew had clarity that cooking was his professional path. “It wasn’t just a career; it was a vocation. It was something I was supposed to be doing,” he says, deciding to commute from San Diego to check out ICE’s Los Angeles campus.
“The regulation of my schedule has helped even with basic things like sleeping," he says. "It’s really just given me a purpose and a drive that I was lacking ever since the military. School gave that to me."
Culinary School in Los Angeles
Though one of his main passions is pastry, managing his epilepsy pushed Andrew to become a healthier person, leading him to study Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at ICE. The program helped him understand the healing power of food.
“That really opened my eyes,” he says. “Food has traditionally been seen as medicine. You can integrate East and West for health reasons and it can be tasty and fun.”
For his final menu, Andrew tapped into his interest in history and connection to the military by creating a vegan shepherd's pie and vegan French onion soup. “It was a nod back to a time when Scotland and France were military allies, called the Auld Alliance,” he says. “If you had told me two years ago that I would be considering veganism, let alone vegetarianism, I would have laughed in your face. I have learned so much by having an open mind.”
Andrew completed his externship by working as a prep cook at Oceanside Kitchen Collaborative, feeding nutritious meals to community members who need it most while practicing zero waste. He’s since returned to ICE for the Pastry & Baking Arts program.
“That was originally what I wanted to do, baking and pastry,” he says. “ICE met and exceeded my expectations for culinary school.”
Andrew, who’s part Irish, dreams of opening a hospitality business in Ireland and hopes knowing the science behind pastry will come in handy.
“The culinary world is so diverse that there definitely are places for me, whether in food writing or education or the bed and breakfast with the cookery school or a café,” he says. “What I do know is, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m on the right path.”
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