Diploma in Art of Cooking, 1998
Andrew Grago graduated from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's Art of Cooking program with diploma in 1998. He is an Executive Chef/Chief Steward for Bean Dredging on the ship Stuyvesant based in New Orleans. Andrew is responsible for preparing hearty meals for the crew and for the sanitation of the ship's interior accommodations.
Andrew worked in the quick service food industry for 16 years. Before attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, he was head chef of a Colorado mountain family-style camp. "I was drawn to The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for several reasons; for its award-winning reputation and chef/instructors, a tropical climate, scholarships, and the opportunity to work in a major metro area."
"My most memorable experience would have to be graduation day. This was the celebration of the time invested into every class and meal prepared at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. The culinary education gave me an edge in my career success from getting hired to being first in line for a promotion.
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 2003
Colette Bolduc grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts and worked for Managed Care Networks when she decided to make a career change and do what she loved most -cooking. Her love for food was based on her parents' background. Her French father and Italian mother hosted many huge family gatherings that revolved around food and people. Entertaining people and providing them with food that tastes great is at the "heart" of who her soul.
Colette decided to enroll in the Culinary Arts associate program at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where she immediately began to enjoy commercial cooking more than home cooking. Her most influential class was food styling. She never missed a day of classes and strived to get the top grades. When she graduated in 2003, she started her own company - It's Delicious. The focus was on small events including home parties, small weddings, and showers. Then she was asked to do the grand opening for Moscow Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale. The event was for 300 people, one of the largest to that point for Colette, and in the planning stages for the event the club asked her to also become their general manager. She now has 36 employees, a $2 million kitchen, and she still cooks the food herself! The job is very demanding because her focus is on several directions and she has to balance bringing in events, preparing for them, and marketing for the club.
Her advice to incoming culinary students is to, "Always enjoy what you do and what makes you happy. Work should never be work. Follow your heart."
Fernando A. Sanchez
Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management, 2002
Fernando A. Sanchez graduated in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in Culinary Management from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and now owns and runs (with his wife) SanCheff, a fine dining and gourmet catering business outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Fernando enjoyed a culinary career prior to being a student at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, hosting a cooking television show. "I knew about the college well before I thought to move to USA," says Fernando. "It had a good reputation in several countries throughout Latin America. This school helped me streamline all my previous knowledge and passion for life to pursue realistic goals. I learned that without a personal agenda, everything is just data. It is through organization, vision for the future, and setting goals, that you transform that data into useful information, and workable results." Fernando was very involved while attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. He participated on many competition teams and won several awards. His professional creed is, "To be fair to my employees, and to my customers; To be loyal to my principles; To recognize my social participation as a business person toward the community in which I live to make better every day."
When asked what he would advise to new students, Fernando said, "You don't have to be a superstar to shine. You don't have to be cool to be accepted. You just have to be persistent to the extreme to feed your soul with love, your mind with knowledge, your spirit with integrity, and your internal clock with eternity. Things will happen someday, somehow, for some reason, in some way, even if you never become rich. But whatever happens in the future will make you invaluable, priceless, to all others around you. That is success. Be a leader, even if you are not the "top dog."
Jason Ray Bauer
Executive Sous Cheff
Broward County Convention Center
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 2005
Jason Ray Bauer is a 2005 Culinary Arts graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who is currently enjoying success as the Executive Sous Chef at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where, when he began studying at the college he had a job within the first week of school.
Since childhood, Jason had a healthy obsession with preparing food. "Growing up I spent much of my free time after school watching and helping my grandmother prepare meals for the family. My whole family enjoys cooking, but I am the first to make a career out of it," says Jason. "As a teenage boy, I started my first culinary job as a busboy in a local South Florida wing restaurant."
Jason says the reason for choosing the culinary school at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale was "because of the teaching style. They have a more hands-on approach. From day one of class you are using your knife kit and practicing knife cuts, where as most other schools lecture for the first six months. I have so many fond memories and experiences at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale it is difficult to narrow them down. I think the best was being able to volunteer to help cook for special meals held at the school and other events with the instructor."
Since graduating, Jason clients at the convention center include the Organization of American States 2005 conference attended by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush, as well as dignitaries from all of the North, Central, and South America. He also prepared the food for the crew and stars of Wheel of Fortune, Miami Dolphins, auctions, fashion shows, political events, and county commissioner events.
"The most important piece of advice I can give any student is that they will only get the most out of school if they are willing to put in the time and effort. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to truly become a chef and they should always continue their education in culinary."
Senior Restaurant Chef
The Four Seasons Hotel
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 1996
"Attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale was the best decision that I ever made!" states 1996 Culinary Arts graduate Jonathan Lane. He has now cooked up quite a career for himself. As the Senior Restaurant Chef for The Four Seasons Hotel in the nation's fine dining captial, Las Vegas, Nevada, he is responsible for all menu planning, payroll, scheduling, and food cost. The Four Seasons has allowed Jonathan the opportunity to learn from world-renowned chefs and work with exquisite cuisine. The hotel is also the fastest in Triple AAA history to receive 5 diamonds and 5 stars.
Jonathan started his career at The Lauderdale Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale working under influential Chef Gary Spitnale. "He taught me discipline and respect for the kitchen. He was very tough on me, but when I look back now I can see what he was doing. I try to instill his teaching into my cooks now." From The Lauderdale Yacht Club, Jonathan worked at The Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas, Texas before transferring to his current position.
Much of his success is attributed to his education at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. "It is an incredible hands-on school. Coming out and comparing myself to other students from other schools, I was one to two years ahead of them." He feels the more hands-on approach made him a much stronger cook and allowed him to progress faster in his career.
Jonathan believes in taking your destiny in your own hands. "Get involved in your workplace. Go to special events with your superiors, volunteer to do special projects and then take the criticism. To get ahead, a person must put a lot of their own time into this business."
The Compassionate Gourmet
Diploma in The Art of Cooking, 2001
According to Florida Trend magazine, 2001 Culinary Arts graduate and personal chef Letty Vendrell's clients are "mostly well-heeled, well-off, and well-fed." Her innovative personal chef service The Compassionate Gourmet provides more than delicious, nutritious, and convenient entrees, it donates 10% of its revenue to Compassion International, a charity that helps provide for underprivileged children. "Create, delight and satisfy through excellence in personal chef services; Touch and inspire the lives of children," is the Fort Lauderdale based company's mission and it's easy to see how her culinary creations can feed more than a hungry stomach but also the soul.
Letty emphasizes the importance of a strong education to be the catalyst for success. "It was a real pleasure to be surrounded by some of the most reputable and leading educators at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. It was with a gracious spirit that I embraced my education at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale," say Letty. She encourages graduates to clearly define a personal mission. "A mission is evolutionary as well as revolutionary," says Letty, "and much patience, pausing and persistence is called for along the way."
Letty asks students to ponder this question, "Would you rather have a bouquet of flowers or a packet of seeds? Although the bouquet sounds tempting, an education from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale offers an array of seeds that you can plant, cultivate and then watch as your seeds bloom!"
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 1995
Lynne Davis is a celebrated local chef who has had a passion for great food and entertaining for many years.
A chef since she graduated in 1995, Lynne is also membership director at Fort Lauderdale's prestigious Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale.. Lynne's experience at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale was one of the most memorable times of her life as her classmates and instructors formed a tight bond and she learned about the successes of teamwork. The instructors were totally committed to seeing their students succeed and each student rooted for their classmates.
"It is hard to pick a favorite memory," says Lynne, a wife and mother of three children, "but being on the Culinary Competition Team had to be up near the top. The attention to detail and the skills we learned became invaluable to my career." Lynne served on the team for two years earning Bronze and Silver Medals in the American Culinary Federation team competitions. The team was led by Master Chef and Culinary Arts Program chair Chef Klaus who was a special influence in her life. "He was always available to answer questions…his knowledge and his ability to convey it to others cannot be beat."
In her spare time Lynne is involved in numerous charitable organizations including SPARK for the Museum of Science and Discovery and The Juvenile Diabetes Association. Many Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale students volunteer to help in their events and the college has loaned equipment to aid in their fundraising efforts.
Lynne's continued association with The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale did not end at graduation. She is a member of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's Culinary Arts Advisory Board and has hired many graduates. She says, "you can tell when a new employee is hired from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale because they come with a respect for their job and themselves, something that is hard to find in worker in the hospitality industry.
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 1996
Nicholas Caggiano graduated from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's Culinary Arts program 1996. After a promising baseball career was sidelined due to a severe injury, his passion for food and large Italian family led him to search for a new career.
Once enrolled in the program, he quickly saw the value of gaining field experience at a local hotel. "Working in the field while attending classes helped me tremendously to see how people react to the food that I prepare." Upon graduation, he was offered the opportunity of Sous Chef on the Forbes private yacht The Highlander.
The combination and array of his experiences, from yachts to hotels, has afforded Nick the ability to open his restaurant Longfellows, located in the heart of downtown area of his hometown Buffalo, NY. Nick thrives on his personal commitments and determination to see each endeavor that he embarks upon through completion. To see a menu, or find out more about Longfellows, visit the website at http://www.longfellowsrestaurant.com.
Chef de Cuisine
3030 Ocean Restaurant, Harbor Beach Marriott
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 1998
Paula DaSilva, a 1998 graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an associate's degree in Culinary Arts, is the Chef de Cuisine at 3030 Ocean Restaurant, located in the Harbor Beach Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Paula has achieved numerous guest chef invitations to the James Beard House, a stage with the famed Chef Joel Antunes of Joel's in Atlanta, as well as the opening of an Italian restaurant in St. Kitts. When she is not cooking, Paula likes to enjoy the beautiful South Florida beaches, dine out and try new restaurants, and travel! Paula will be competing on season 5 of the popular cooking show Hell's Kitchen on Fox TV.
Originally from Brazil, Paula grew up in Boston where she had her first taste of the kitchen at the age of 10 when her parents opened a small family style Brazilian restaurant. After three years in that restaurant, her family decided to move to South Florida and open two larger restaurants. Over the next five years, Paula assisted her parents in all aspects of operating the restaurant. While attending Boca High School and playing on the basketball team, she was always at the restaurant. Most of her time was spent in the kitchen cooking, prepping the meats for the "rodizio" and ordering.
"I really just saw myself cooking and one day becoming a chef," Paula says. "I chose The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale over the other culinary programs because I really liked the way the program was structured." She attributes the school to her success and says, "It gave me good basic knowledge that I needed to begin working a pantry position. Although I had worked with my parents in the restaurant for many years, the American kitchen was a lot different. It helped my confidence so that when a chef told me to 'go cut mirepoix,' I knew what he was talking about. I believe that education is important and it sure helps having a degree, not only because it looks good on your resume but it is also appealing to others that you actually have an education."
"I think that every day is a rewarding day for me, I'm doing what I love to do and I'm making people happy and also having lots of fun doing it!" Paula's advice to students looking to work in the field is, "they really have to do it because they love it and have passion for it. You must give 110% all the time and there is no room for laziness. It is a lot of hard work and very intense, but it's also rewarding."
For the future chefs, her advice is, "I would highly recommend traveling around the country and gaining as much knowledge in some of the best restaurants and building their resume as much as they can. They should be like sponges and absorbing everything that is thrown at them, because no one can take your knowledge away from you."
Above & Beyond Dining and Dolce Amore Cafe
Diploma in The Art of Cooking, 2002
Rich Achaia, 2002 Culinary Arts graduate from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, is currently owner of Delray Beach's Above & Beyond Dining and Dolce Amore Cafe, a dining and catering company. He has been featured in the South Florida Dines, Boca Magazine, Sun-Sentinel, 92.3 FM, and Channel 17 local news.
"I've always had a love for cooking," says Rich. "I began cooking with my mother as early as seven years old. She always had things prepared for my sister and me to do - like cleaning the chicken, cutting vegetables, and rolling grape leaves. Food was a big part of my family and still is to this day. As a result, my sister and I have become chefs."
While attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Rich was employed at the Las Olas Café and the Big City Tavern. He also worked at the Marriott Hotel, Broward Convention Center, in the school's Chef's Palette restaurant, and worked in numerous special events on campus. "I have experienced a wide range of the culinary field, which I spent time working in the catering business, restaurants, yachts, and as a personal chef. I feel that it is important to learn as much as you can if the opportunity is available to you. While in college, Career Services Advisor Christina Christian constantly fueled me with referrals and advice. I am very thankful for all that she did for me.
"The culinary business is not for everyone because it can be mentally and physically grueling. In the culinary business you have to love what you do in order to become successful. I always tried to learn as much as I could in order to bring it into my everyday duties. I have learned to be humble, set goals, and not be afraid to fail."
Vinny Datolo and Jon Shook
Chefs, Restaurant Owners, and Television Personalities
Two Dudes Catering, The Little Engine
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, 2000
Vinny Datolo and Jon Shook graduated in 2000 from the Culinary Arts, Associate of Science program. They are currently Chefs, Restaurant Owners, and Television Personalities.
Vinny and Jon star in their own Food Network show, “Two Dudes Catering.” The reality-based show chronicles the day-to-day business of their Los Angeles based catering company. Vinny and Jon also own their own production company called Carmelized Productions, Inc. The pair is preparing to open a high-end Los Angeles restaurant called “The Little Engine.” Vinny and Jon have also competed on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” television program.
If you have a success story of your own that you would like to share, please submit it to our Alumni Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-275-7603, ext. 2611.