Since beginning her ‘career’ at the age of 7, learning her Southern family roots and cooking methods, to the age of 14 apprenticing under a German chef, Tia has made every effort to hone her skills in various operations, learning global cuisines, and developing her palate for flavor. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in 1998, she saw the education as part of her growth as a great cook; alongside her education she worked at the Hyatt Grand Central in New York City, created her own catering company, and worked at Troutbeck Inn, a 5-Diamond inn in Amenia, New York.

Tia continued her growth after graduation by working at Oceana restaurant in NYC under the guise of Rick Moonen, gaining extensive knowledge of seafood cooking; then working for Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto fame, expanding her knowledge of rustic regional Italian cuisine. Tia also has invested time in learning Sicilian cuisines, studying from Sicilian chefs who shared their knowledge and palate with her.

Tia joined the Aramark team in 2000, serving in various roles including Executive Chef at the University of Pennsylvania, Senior Executive Chef at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China, and Development Chef for Aramark Education K-12. During that time, she developed recipes, performed nutritional analysis, and trained kitchen staff across the country. As part of her employment with Aramark, Tia served as Chef at ESF Foundation’s Dream Camp in 2011 with chefs Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud. Their vision for scratch cooking and family style eating for kids exactly mirrored Tia’s ideas about what school lunch should be and was the impetus for her move to the Vetri Foundation for Children in January, 2012.

Being a member of a family full of arts, Tia has an appreciation of music, performing and visual arts and spends her free time collecting art and music. Tia also finds time in her schedule to volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Favorite Culinary Quote: “I’d would much rather be a chef that remembers I am a cook than a cook that thinks I’m a chef”- Richard Peterson


Tia McDonald

Tia McDonald

director of culinary operations