Meet the Team

Marcella Rodriguez is the Director of Culinary Education at Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment. She oversees the culinary, baking, and barista education and employment programming at the Center and shares her expertise as a seasoned chef and food service professional. Prior to joining Homes for the Homeless (HFH), she was a Food Operations/Patient Experience Manager with Sodexo Healthcare Services where she focused on exceptional patient experience, innovation, and employee engagement. Marcella obtained her Certificate in Culinary Arts from The New York Restaurant School and spent the first part of her career working in the hospitality industry, including restaurants, country clubs, and hotels throughout Westchester County. She transitioned to healthcare after earning her Associate’s degree in Applied Sciences in Food and Nutrition and is also certified in Patient Experience Leadership as well as Serve Safe and NY State food handlers certified.

Jayda Gabriel is an Assistant Chef Instructor with a focus on the pastry arts at Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment. She teaches pastry workshops from the highly technical like French macaroons and fresh puff pastry to the fun and creative cupcake and ice cream-making workshops. Jayda began her career working at a bakery production facility and then as a pastry chef at Marta’s restaurant, both in NYC. She enjoys challenging recipes—breaking them down into bite sized pieces for her students—and has a keen eye for what is happening in the pastry food world. Jayda received her associate’s degree from Sullivan County Community College.

Gabriel Rodriguez is the Lead Chef Instructor at Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment. He uses his 25 years of experience in the hospitality and food industry to prepare students with the skills and techniques necessary for a solid culinary foundation—while covering an array of cuisines. Gabriel’s love for cooking began when he was a child—he remembers his grandmother sitting him on the counter and helping her crack eggs. Prior to joining Homes for the Homeless (HFH), Gabriel worked as the Executive Chef for Nutrition Management Services Company, providing nutritious meals to people living in long-term care. He also previously served as the former Director of Culinary Arts for the Greyston Foundation, an organization that offers job-training and employment to people who face barriers when entering the workforce. A Bronx native, Gabriel is looking forward to giving back to his community by sharing his passion and knowledge of culinary arts. Gabriel earned his B.S in Culinary Arts & Food Service Management with a minor in Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University.

Amanda Santiago is the Culinary Outreach Coordinator at Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment. She oversees the inflow of prospective culinary students and establishes relationships with industry employers to assist in securing positions for graduates of the culinary program. Prior to her role at Homes for the Homeless (HFH), Amanda worked as a Case Worker at a senior center and an Enrollment Specialist on a medical mobile unit that spanned NYC’s five boroughs. When it comes to food, her favorites are Italian and Mexican cuisine. Amanda received a B.A. in Political Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Julissa Barillas is the Culinary Employment Coordinator at Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment. She utilizes her prior experience as an Employment Coach at Rescare and Intake Specialist at Fedcap Rehabilitation Services to help graduates of Homes for the Homeless (HFH)’s culinary program secure employment including revising resumes, creating job referrals, and building partnerships with outside organizations. Julissa is passionate about promoting career readiness and making job accessibility available to all. She received her Master’s degree in Public Affairs and Administration as well as her Bachelor’s degree in American Urban Studies at the Metropolitan College of New York.

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If you or your client are interested in pursuing a career in the food industry, register for our next, free co-hort.

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