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Culinary Arts Alumni Gain National Recognition from James Beard Foundation

Culinary Alumni James Beard Awards

Six of our graduates were nominated as finalists for The James Beard Foundation Awards, the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in the United States. The James Beard Foundation Awards cover each aspect of the culinary industry, from chefs and restaurateurs, to authors and journalists. Our graduates include:

Kevin Gillespie, author of Fire in My Belly, was nominated in the American Cooking category. He is a 2003 graduate of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta with an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts. In April he opened his own restaurant, Gunshow, in Atlanta, GA, featuring rustic dishes that are seasonally rooted and locally focused.

Jamie Bissonnette was nominated for Best Chef in the Northeast Region for his work at Coppa, an innovative Italian enoteca in Boston that opened in 2009 and serves snout-to-tail dishes. He is a 1996 graduate of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, with an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts.

The team of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo was nominated for Best Chef in the West Region for work at Animal in Los Angeles, receiving praise from LA Weekly and Bon Appetit. They are 2000 graduates of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, with Associate of Science degrees in Culinary Arts.

Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg has been a part of Spiaggia’s team since 2005 and travels to Italy each year to develop new skills. Spiaggia, located in Chicago, was nominated for Best Restaurant. She is a 2001 graduate of The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institute of Houston with an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

Chris Shepherd was nominated for Best Chef in the Southwest Region for his cuisine at Underbelly that pays tribute to the culinary diversity and resources of its home base in Houston. Underbelly has been praised by The New York Times and, and Shepherd was named to the Best New Chef list in 2013 by Food & Wine magazine. He is a 1996 grad from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Houston with an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts.

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The Career Insider Provides Job, Internship, and Industry Info for Art Institutes Graduates at No Cost

As part of our ongoing support to our graduates, The Art Institutes offers The Career Insider as a no-cost service to search for jobs, company profiles, internships, and industry information

The Career Insider has downloadable career guides and a blog section that covers everything from tips for interviewing at Google to why women struggle with networking. Over 200 jobs are posted for job-seekers to explore.

Art Institutes alumni will find The Career Insider—s Industries and Professions section to be particularly relevant. It investigates various professions’including media and entertainment, visual arts, photography, hospitality, food and beverage production, fashion and apparel, advertising and marketing, and animation—and summarizes the background and trends that significantly impact each industry.

The blogs section breaks down articles into categories that include interviewing, job search, networking, resumes and cover letters, salary and benefits, and workplace issues. This makes it easy to search for relevant articles.

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The Career Insider is a no-cost service for Art Institutes graduates to utilize. To start using the service, visit the Alumni Connections website and if you haven’t already, register to use the site. Then click on The Career Insider on the left hand navigation.

While you’re on Alumni Connections, be sure to share your story with us. We enjoy learning about the professional accomplishments of our graduates—and enjoy sharing those accomplishments with a wider audience!

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Travis Magee

Travis Magee

Travis Magee, 2008 Associate of Applied Arts in Graphic Design, The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University.

“My graphic design degree helped me to build my portfolio to initially get into Fossil’s Digital Imaging Department.”

As a multimedia designer for clothing and accessory manufacturer Fossil, Inc., Travis Magee is busy serving in numerous roles. “I plan, organize, and direct video shoots for external use of Fossil brand and licensed brands, and corporate internal use of Fossil Inc.,” he states. Travis also works on video color-correction, color-grading, and editing video and motion graphics.

His creative influences are professional cinematographers/videographers Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet. “They pioneered the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) video movement, which is what inspired me to shoot video,” he adds. Travis recommends that current students take on freelance work to build their industry experience and continue learning. “If there is something that you don’t know or you want to learn about, teach yourself with tutorials online [that] are available at your disposal.”

Travis, who in 2008 earned an Associate of Applied Arts in Graphic Design from The Art Institute of Dallas, says that he’s proud to have a position at a globally recognized company and adds that his education helped him to learn both technical skills and the rules of good design. “My education gave me the opportunity to work on projects to build my portfolio and have my portfolio be critiqued by industry professionals.”

Justin Hunt

Justin Hunt Photo

Justin Hunt, 2009 Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

Chef de Cuisine at Bar Americain
in New York City

Justin Hunt, chef de cuisine at Bar Americain in New York City, is responsible for overseeing all kitchen operations, completing all ordering, managing over 50 employees, ensuring the highest quality of food and product, and conducting lunch and dinner services at the 200-plus-seat restaurant. He begins his day with large prep tasks such as preparing sauces, and he also works lunch and dinner—adding that on Fridays and Saturdays, over 500 people come in for dinner.

Justin names Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and Danny Meyer as inspirations, and adds that he loves Greece, hoping to one day open a Greek restaurant. Justin recommends that current culinary students think carefully about whether a career in culinary arts is right for them. “All of the sermons you have heard about hours and holidays are true, and if that is something that doesn’t sit well with you, then you will never make it. You have to be totally devoted.”

Justin, who in 2009 earned an Associate of Science degree in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute of Charleston, says that his education laid the foundation he needed to build a career in culinary arts. “[Culinary arts] came very naturally to me but I lacked the knowledge behind what I was doing. That’s where [the school] really helped me.”

Monica Lachelle Burke

Monica Lachelle Burke Photo

Monica Lachelle Burke, 1998 Associate of Applied Science, Video Production, The Art Institute of Houston

“Constantly stay in contact with past bosses and coworkers who might move around in your profession.”

As a programming manager for Pac-12 Networks, Monica Lachelle Burke is responsible for scheduling programming for Pac-12's National and Six Regional Sports Networks. She acts as a department liaison with Pac-12’s Master Control Facility in Denver to distribute the Pac-12 live events to affiliates, and works with the programming team to select games and strategize new programming concepts for upcoming collegiate sports seasons.

Monica says that she doesn’t have a typical workday, and that it can vary depending on which sports season she’s covering. She adds that the best part of her job is that she has a creative say in what is programmed and goes on-air. Monica recommends that current students network while still in school and not be disappointed by an entry-level job—it can lead to a bigger opportunity down the road.

Monica, who in 1998 earned an Associate of Applied Science in Video Production from The Art Institute of Houston, says that her education helped to pave a path to her future career. “I was in my electronic news production class when I heard that KNWS was hiring for master control in Houston. I thought, ‘Why not?’
So I went for the interview and was hired.”

Kaitlin McKinlay

Kaitlin McKinlay Photo

Kaitlin McKinlay, 2012, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, The Art Institute of California—San Francisco, a campus of Argosy University

“Whether you like it or not, clothing
plays a huge role in how we feel about ourselves.”

As a technical designer for DownEast Outfitters, Kaitlin McKinlay illustrates technical flats for tech packs, records measurements for each garment’s spec sheets, and does fittings for each stage of a garment’s production. “I love collaborating on a team to create chic and flattering clothing. Nothing gives me more pleasure than making women feel beautiful and confident,” she says.

Kaitlin is inspired by fashion history and looks to antiques and old Hollywood movies when she’s brainstorming for ideas. She recommends that current fashion students stay motivated and confident—even when they doubt their talent or abilities. “Hang in there. After a while you will be able to look back and see significant progress and realize that you are a talented person.”

Kaitlin, who in 2012 earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from The Art Institute of California—San Francisco, says that her education gave her the skills she needed to enter the fashion industry. “I learned how to create patterns, construct clothing, and a handful of computer programs. Above all, [I learned] how to work hard and make it happen.”

Alumni Share Your Story

Featured from left to right: Amy B. Tronolone, 2007 Graduate, Bachelor of Science degree in Photography, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Austen Adriaens, 2011 Graduate, Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design, The Art Institutes International Minnesota;
Kishya L. Greer, 2005 Graduate, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, The Art Institute of Dallas


The Design & Media Management master of arts degree program offered by The Art Institutes system of schools is designed to turn creative professionals into creative leaders. This program builds on your creativity by teaching you management, entrepreneurial, and critical thinking skills so you can seize tomorrow’s leadership opportunities and be the driving force behind a creative team or entrepreneurial effort.

The Design & Media Management master’s degree program was created by professionals for professionals, and it immerses you in detail–oriented analysis and big–picture thinking to help businesses succeed. In the course work you practice real–world situations in the form of case–based learning.

With Miami International University of Art & Design as the degree–granting institution, students can learn in Miami, Tampa, or Jacksonville. The program will also be offered in Texas with The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University, as the degree–granting institution, with learning sites in Houston and Austin.

It takes the right kind of forward–thinking professionals with creativity, business sense, and people skills to help organizations grow, and the Design & Media Management master’s degree program can help you become a creative leader who can create tomorrow’s design, products, and user experiences.

For more information, visit

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The Art Institutes ( is a system of more than 50 schools located throughout North America. The Art Institutes schools provide an important source for design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University.OH Registration # 04-01-1698B; AC0165, AC0080; Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 1287, 3427, 3110, 2581.

Since The Art Institutes is comprised of several institutions, see for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.