LisaMarie Ianuzzi, a culinary arts student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, had to tell her instructors she was going to miss some classes this week because she’s going to the Super Bowl.
Ianuzzi doesn’t have a ticket to the game, but then, she doesn’t need one. She’s in her third season as a member of the Patriots Cheerleaders, and on Sunday she’ll be cheering at Super Bowl XLIX.
The daughter of a New Jersey restaurateur, the cheerleader moved to Rhode Island for the job but was always interested in cooking. So she enrolled at Johnson & Wales and last spring earned an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts; the culinary arts degree will be her second.
Ianuzzi started dancing before she was 3 years old. Her other two passions — food and football — have also been part of her life since childhood. “Growing up my father and I always watched football and the Food Network,” she says. “That was our thing. We were on the couch together watching Emeril or the games on Sunday.” Ralph Ianuzzi owns Restaurant L, a bistro in Allendale, N.J., and though Ianuzzi worked as a hostess in the dining room through high school, she was constantly in the kitchen to see what was going on.
The 25-year-old grew up as a New York Giants fan, but she’s had a long-standing attachment to the Patriots as well. “The Giants, the Patriots, and the Dallas Cowboys — those were the teams my dad respected, and when those teams were playing you were quiet,” Ianuzzi says.
Being a fan and a dancer led her to the National Football League. After graduating from college in 2011, she looked around for cheering opportunities. On her first tryout in the spring of 2012, Ianuzzi earned a spot with the Patriots Cheerleaders. Once settled in Rhode Island, she began a marketing position at an athletic equipment company there, but found it hard to focus on track and field supplies. “I still had the itch to cook. It was distracting. At work I was thinking of baking,” she says.
Within a year she changed to a job as a server and prep cook with Twist Bakery Cafe in Millis. Professional training was still on her mind. She remembers thinking, “This is the most opportune time to go back to school.”
During the season, this means balancing the demands of her football job and the rigors of an intensive culinary education. This adds up to two 3-hour cheering practices during the week, a full day at Pats’ home games, and six-hour cooking classes at Johnson & Wales beginning at 7 a.m. on weekdays.
Associate chef-instructor Fred Haddad, who taught Ianuzzi last fall, wasn’t aware of her responsibilities outside of his classroom until the two were chatting about sports after class one day. “When she said she was involved with the Patriots I thought she was joking,” Haddad recalls. “But then she gave me a flyer with a photo of her with the team.” Haddad admires Ianuzzi’s dedication to her education. “She’s a true professional, always prepared and a real team player in the classroom,” he says.
Last summer Ianuzzi worked as an assistant pastry chef at Providence’s Bacaro Restaurant, making vanilla-bean cheesecake with rhubarb jam, and fig and plum tart with creme Anglaise. But when she shares her culinary skills with her cheering team, the menu is a bit different. “I am mindful that they are athletes, and they work very hard to keep a healthy lifestyle,” Ianuzzi says. She might offer the squad a frozen pumpkin pie made with Greek yogurt and spices mounded in a crust of ground oats and graham crackers.
Her fellow cheerleaders don’t always understand what being a culinary student entails. “They think some of the things that I do in school are wacky,” she says, perhaps because she sent photos showing her cutting apart a big beef round in a meat-cutting class she’s taking now. She laughs at their reactions.
Her worlds may seem like an odd pairing, but Ianuzzi sees them as complementing each other. “I think the two go hand in hand. It takes a lot of preparation for both professions.” For school, she has tools she has to keep in a certain way, and for cheerleading, it’s the same. “For both careers you have to be very dedicated and precise,” she says.
On Sunday she’ll be at University of Phoenix stadium cheering. “That is something I could only dream of doing,” she says.
She calls the big day “literally the icing on a delicious cake.”
Her Super Bowl-inspired recipe Make LisaMarie Ianuzzi’s lobster and avocado cauliflower “flatbreads.”Gillian O'Callaghan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.