Andriw Duque was always around cooking while growing up in his grandparents’ home in his native Colombia. His Grandma never seemed to leave the kitchen – it was her pride and joy. Andriw’s Grandfather had a nearby gumdrop factory, and he was always cooking with sugar. As a child, Andriw loved the art of converting raw ingredients into the feasts that fed his family whether in everyday life or in festive celebrations.

At the age of 10, Andriw moved to Long Island, New York. After high school, Andriw and his friends got jobs in the area. Two of his closest friends worked at Atria on Roslyn Harbor, an exclusive independent living community which is also on Long Island. “Those guys loved their jobs, and I liked being around them, so I thought it would be cool to work with them. They didn’t have a spot for me in the kitchen, so I joined the wait staff,” he said.

Fast Progress

Later, Andriw joined Atria West 86th where his career really took off. “I began to love what the Culinary department was all about and that began my career path through Atria. They saw that I had the desire, so they supported me to go to culinary school. They gave me flexible scheduling and even paid the tuition. After I got my certification, I pretty much worked myself up to Chef, then Assistant Director of Culinary, to Director of Culinary, and now to Executive Chef here at Atria West 86th,” he said.

Andriw recognizes that success is often driven in part by colleagues and managers alike. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without such a great team behind me. At every step, all my supervisors have been supportive, and they will help you. Even the residents – sometimes I feel like they’re my fans cheering me on. It’s just a great experience. I don’t know what other career paths I could have chosen, but I don’t think I would go back and change anything.”

Promoting Career Growth

“Atria gives a lot of feedback, and they promote your growth. It makes you feel you’re not being left behind. No matter what position you have within the company, everybody’s treated as an equal. No matter if you have a higher position or whatever title, I feel like everybody puts in as much as everybody else. Everybody’s considered important from the front desk to the back of the house, to the porters and housekeeping, everybody has an important role within the company. To me that’s what Atria is all about – being loved and knowing they give back as much as they can,” he said.

What’s a Day at Work Like at Atria?

“You come to work, but it doesn’t feel like you’re working half of the time. You’re working with good colleagues that help you get to where you need to be. I can have a million things going on outside work, but when I come into that kitchen, everything else fades away and I am in my environment.”

A Built in Fan Club

“I love hearing the encouragement from our residents. I like to get groups of them together and hear the kinds of dishes they crave – all kinds of ethnicities. So, I take that into the kitchen and prepare meals that the love and they’re always encouraging me and complimenting me on our cuisine.”

Atria has opened a lot of doors for me, and I always see people growing within the company at a fast pace. It’s all about how much effort you want to put into what you do and what you love doing,” Andriw said.

Empowered to Succeed

“It’s incredible to see the growth in Andriw’s career in just a 10-year span,” said Andie Bazelais, Assistant Executive Director at Atria West 86th. “We both joined the wait staff here at the same time. He stayed with Atria, and later I went out and got other experience but knew I’d always come back here to Atria, and I did,” she said.

“You can look at the two of us and tell that Atria really believes in investing in growing their own. I’ve had a lot of good leaders and managers who really took their time to see me through with what I wanted to do. Atria really gives a young person the ability to figure out what they want to do,” Andie said.

“At Atria, you see the smiles that you get to put on people’s faces and know that you really make a difference,” she said.