Alumni Spotlights

Cody Castiglia, ’12: Farm-to-Table Cooking, Italian Style

June 18, 2018 by Lisa M. McMahon, MA'09

Cody Castiglia, ’12, grew up in a family of foodies, chefs, and restaurateurs. His parents and grandparents owned restaurants, and he remembers the allure of being creative in the kitchen; learning Italian classics from his grandmother, Loretta; and the enjoyment of serving others food he had prepared. When it came time to select a college, the Hamburg, N.Y., native chose Niagara University because he was impressed by the hospitality management program and the opportunities it gave him to learn and grow personally and professionally. He also “loved the values behind the university.”

After graduating from NU with his bachelor’s degree in 2012, Cody was accepted into the Culinary Corporate Management Training Program at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, which included a two-month assignment at the Hyatt Escala Lodge in Park City, Utah. Upon completing the program, Cody was hired as a line cook at a restaurant established by, and named for, Stephan Pyles, a James Beard Best Chef Award winner.

Working for an award-winning chef was an excellent experience, but Cody missed his hometown and, because Dallas’ summer season was slow, Cody’s hours at the restaurant were reduced, making it difficult to make ends meet. So he returned to Buffalo in 2014, where he worked at Embassy Suites, CRaVing, and Carte Blanche, a farm-to-table restaurant. He also returned to his alma mater for a year as a trainer in Niagara's Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute.

While at CRaVing, in particular, Cody learned to appreciate the use of local ingredients. He notes that chef Adam Goetz would use whatever was available at the time, often not knowing in advance what that would be, and that he would prepare it without frying or using complicated sauces, which highlighted its flavor and allowed for a cleaner, and often healthier, dish. Cody also had the opportunity to accompany Chef Goetz when he was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City.

In 2017, Cody packed up his car “with everything that would fit in it (mostly cookbooks),” and relocated to Seattle, where his girlfriend (and now, wife), Lia, lived. There, he applied what he learned about cooking with local and seasonal ingredients as a culinary instructor at the 21 Acres Center for Local Food & Sustainable Living. He also launched Della Terra Catering (meaning “of the Earth”), which provides high-end, Italian-inspired, farm-to-table catering, in addition to cooking classes and events.

“It seemed that I was only getting so far working for other people,” he says, noting that he doesn’t fit the mold of the chefs he had worked with, and that he is not the most “technical of cooks."

"But I had this drive and deep desire to follow my dreams, to be creative, and to serve people, and I knew that I could make it work in my own way.”

Through Della Terra Catering, Cody develops custom menus for each of his clients, such as hand-made winter squash gnocchi with rendered bacon, and local greens and goat cheese, one of his favorite dishes to prepare.

“It’s very much my kind of food,” he explains, “made from scratch and rooted in the Italian classics I’ve learned from my family, yet creative, featuring local and seasonal ingredients in a way that’s approachable.”

As a business owner, Cody wears numerous hats: chef, dishwasher, server, catering sales manager, accountant, and administrative assistant. He says that Niagara helped to prepare him for this role, because he was able to get “a taste of all facets of the hospitality industry.”

Cody is getting notice for the style of food he prepares, and he has been featured in several articles and blogs. He says he’d like to publish a cookbook someday, highlighting all that he’s learned from his family and the amazing chefs he’s had the opportunity to work with, “seen through the lens of farm-to-table sourcing.”

But in the meantime, he will continue to merge what he experienced in the restaurants where he worked with his own flavors and creations, providing truly farm-to-table dining and warm hospitality to groups of all sizes.