Student Success Story, Jackie Zappetta
May 12, 2015
This May, Jackie Zappetta, 45, is earning an associate degree in restaurant and food service management. She has a passion for cooking and currently works as a bakery team leader for Giant Eagle’s new Market District in Solon.
Her interest in the culinary arts has come full circle. Raised on a small ranch in Vacaville, Calif., Zappetta’s childhood interests varied from riding horses, dancing and participating in 4-H Club activities. At age 17, she graduated from Dixon High School in Dixon, Calif., and enrolled in a culinary arts program that focused on baking. Upon completing the six-month course, she landed her first job as a baker for Costco.
The daughter of an Air Force air traffic controller, Zappetta combined her culinary talents with her desire to serve her country when she joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 1987. She served as a diet technician during her 10 years with the Reserves, which included activation to serve in Operation Desert Storm.
After her service, Zappetta enrolled at Solano Community College and then transferred to the University of California, Davis to complete a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, which ultimately took her career in a new direction. She worked in the biotech field for 15 years, initially making cancer therapeutics and then genetic analysis reagents.
She shifted career paths again when she earned her California broker’s license and operated a real estate and loan business from 2005-2007. In 2007, she returned to biotech and in 2009, moved to Cleveland to start a laboratory for her former employer, Affymetrix.
Two years ago, an unexpected layoff from Affymetrix caused her to reevaluate her career and return to her first love – cooking. Now with her associate degree from Cuyahoga Community College, she plans to pursue her long-term goal of running a community kitchen and operating a nonprofit organization that supports community health-and-wellness education. Her next educational goal is to pursue a master’s degree in nonprofit management.