ABOUT our Chef/CEO
Jameeale Arzeno is the Chef founder and CEO of CHICpeas. Inc., a culinary-themed family entertainment company. In 1993, this Bronx native answered her first culinary calling. She left the security of a municipal job with the City of New York to better feed her soul through the tempestuous world of food and hospitality management. She recognized the power of food—not only to nourish bodies, but also to define and empower families and communities.
With a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Baruch College already in tow, Arzeno entered the Hospitality Management program at New York City College of Technology. In three years, she earned an AAS degree and landed an apprenticeship at Le Grand Louvre at the Louvre museum in Paris. As a stagiaire under Fabrice Rialland, Arzeno proved her culinary mettle—and broke the rules.
As described in the 1996 New York Times article “From Neighborhood to Grande Cuisine,” Arzeno challenged the hierarchy of the French professional kitchen. Instead of being relegated to the “bottom of the bottom,” as most interns were, she trailed Fabrice Rialland, the chef de partie for the meat section. Eager and restless for the next thing to do in the kitchen, she took charge when the opportunity arose. “‘I will do the ravioli stuffed with crayfish. I will do the papillote of fish and sautéed scallops wrapped in foil.’” Arzeno said to him. “'After that day, there was nothing he wouldn't teach me.’''
Arzeno’s success at Le Grand Louvre stemmed from an apprenticeship at Le Grenouille (now Le Parisien Bistrot) and volunteer work at the James Beard House, again gleaning every bit of knowledge that pros such as Richard Biando and the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chefs would teach her.
Industry-ready by ‘96, Arzeno’s first professional position brought her to the upscale hotel restaurant Forty Four under the direction of Geoffrey Zakarian, with whom she had previously worked on a consulting project for the Old Navy coffee shop at the 18th Street flagship store. It was there that she took a stand against being marginalized by male counterparts and was quickly promoted to kitchen supervisor. At 44 Restaurant, Zakarian sent her to the pastry kitchen to develop her talent in fine-dining pastry prep. Arzeno moved from 44 in the Royalton Hotel to Aretsky’s Patroon and then moved to Florida, where she worked as a pastry chef for Chef Allen in North Aventura and at the Grand Bay Hotel until 1999.
Then it was time for Arzeno to return to New York. On her first day of job hunting, she had a chance encounter with a former manager, who now worked for the Fireman Hospitality Group. He put her in front of patrons and taught her how to manage the room. “He gave me the opportunity to explore the other aspects of the business,” Arzeno recalled.
Her four-year stint there equipped her with the skills to land her dream job with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. She worked with the prestigious Jean-Georges Management for four years, earning a reputation as a no-nonsense talent with an eye for detail and a third eye for restaurant reviewers. In a historically white, male-dominated industry, Arzeno not only broke rules as she always had, but also broke barriers. During her tenure with Jean-Georges Management, she was the only Afro-Latina manager in the organization, the first female floor manager to have a child, and the first to receive full benefits and pay during her maternity leave.
Shortly thereafter, however, Arzeno’s priorities shifted. Having achieved recognition as an industry leader, she was at this point primarily concerned with work-life balance as a now-divorced single mother of three-year old son, Cosmo Joaquin. She moved into the non-profit sector, working with ROC-NY and serving as an adjunct professor at Monroe College, where she educated a new generation of emerging leaders in food and beverage management, customer service, and purchasing and menu design.
Having not only survived, but thrived, in the hospitality world on a global scale, Arzeno set her sights on bringing the 4-star experience home to Bronx County. In 2015, Arzeno founded CHICpeas, a dynamic new model for children’s enrichment and family entertainment that provides a first-rate experience to budding chefs. CHICpeas encourages curiosity, creativity, and social growth and ignites families’ passion for food as art and love for the kitchen.
Arzeno’s mentoring and mission extends from the Bronx throughout New York City and beyond. She offers cooking demos, culinary classes, intimate dining events, and demonstrations at national retail stores such as Whole Foods.