Dionisio Cucuta always had a passion for the culinary arts. In 1977, he attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island via a Department of the Navy program. Afterwards, he served in the United States Marine Corps as a food service specialist aboard the aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67).
On the USS John F. Kennedy, Mr. Cucuta was tasked to cook and serve up to 7,000 hungry Marines. It was the perfect place to hone his skill. Unfortunately, Mr. Cucuta was severely injured while on patrol in Japan in 1981. He was subsequently honorably discharged on September 30, 1983.
After his military service, Mr. Cucuta worked at a variety of top restaurants in New Jersey and New York. He eventually found himself at the Park Avenue Cafe, a four-star restaurant, where he was tutored by celebrity chef David Burke. The mentorship that Mr. Cucuta received at the Park Avenue Cafe served him well throughout his career. After the Park Avenue Cafe, Mr. Cucuta worked at Tattoos with Chef John Langhron, who was nominated as the Tour de France chef. Most recently, Mr. Cucuta, who is lovingly known as “Chef Dion” by his students, works as the Executive Chef at Bergen Community College.
Perhaps, the only field that Mr. Cucuta excels at more than the culinary arts is as a community service leader. Cucuta now serves as the president of the Disabled Combat Veterans Youth Program, or DCVYP. A non-profit that runs three workshops, all aimed at mentoring young men and women in Bergen County.
One of those three programs is the “Culinary Cadets.” It instructs young men and women in the art of cooking. The classes are held in the cafeteria of the Janis E. Dismus School and the kitchen of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church. The culinary cadets learn to cook, calculate measurements, and how to work together as a team. The goal of the program is to instill key skills in young individuals from Englewood and the surrounding communities such as, critical thinking, responsible personal conduct, respect for others, and time management.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Cucuta has worked tirelessly and lovingly in the City of Englewood to provide food for economically disadvantaged families. Every week, he distributes food to individuals with disabilities, seniors, and families struggling to make ends meet. He is a volunteer for Table to Table Tuesday at the First Baptist Church in Englewood, where he helps service over 2,000 families.
“Chef Dion” as he is lovingly called in the Englewood community has become a stalwart at the Tuesday distribution events. Everyone looks forward to seeing him there. It has become a tradition to not only receive food from him, but to be greeted by him. In fact, the seniors look forward to this vital interaction, and the youth that he mentors see what caring for others looks like, finding in him a person to emulate.
Mr. Cucuta is living proof that many of our veterans live by the principles that they learned while protecting our freedom and continue to seek to help others even after taking off the uniform.
Mr. Cucuta, thank you for your service to our nation and for your continued service to the residents of Bergen County!
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The Division of Veterans Services was established in 1977 to provide resident veterans and their dependents with information and assistance in obtaining earned entitlements from federal, state, and local governments, as well as any that are available from the private sector.
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