Bachelor of Science - Culinary Management
Lead Cook - Casa De Las Campanas
Catering for high profile events like the Grammy's, Emmy's and Oscar's is a dream job for any aspiring chef and Gerardo Granados was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so a year before he graduated from The Art Institute of California—Orange County.
Before working star-studded events at Wolfgang Puck Catering, Gerardo began his culinary education at a community college but wasn't sure it was the right career for him until one of his instructors inspired him to further his education.
"At The Art Institute of California—Orange County, I learned that food can be turned into a masterpiece," Gerardo said. "The Culinary Management program taught me the fundamentals of cooking, how to multitask and how to work with others."
To put his culinary skills to the test, Gerardo took jobs that would reinforce the techniques he was learning in class. During his first year of school, he worked in a Dana Point retirement home that provided its residents fine dining. Gerardo worked his way up from bus boy to lead cook in a year and a half.
"During my second year of school, I wanted to test my cooking skills so I headed to Hollywood and worked with Wolfgang Puck Catering," Gerardo said. "Cooking for celebrities was a great experience but I still wanted to push myself more."
His next challenge took him to a retirement home in San Diego where Gerardo's goal was to turn around their kitchen. He is currently working with the cooks to teach them unfamiliar techniques and how to combine flavors and put "more love" into what they do.
"This is not my final destination in my career but just one of my culinary cooking stops," Gerardo said.
A typical day for Gerardo includes checking in with the sous chef to confirm the menu and preparing both kitchens with all necessary ingredients. Before dinner is served, he explains the entrées ingredients to the wait staff. The shift ends when the kitchen is as clean as it was before dinner service.
"I don't consider cooking a job because it is something I love to do," Gerardo said, "but I always keep my eyes open and try to learn from others."
AS Culinary Arts
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
When the restaurant director for Champagne French Bakery Café came to The Art Institute seeking a knowledgeable and professional restaurant manager, Alisa Swartz immediately fit the bill.
Alisa soon found that the education she received in her Management and Supervision class served her just as well as the skills she learned inside the kitchen. “I was taught how to relate to people, how to sell myself and how to manage a restaurant.”
The advice Alisa learned from her chef instructors also proved invaluable in her current success. “They were constantly telling us not to settle, to be your best. If we settle for the level of quality that everyone else is producing, we’ll never stand out.”
Alisa learned very fast that, in the culinary world, there is no such thing as a typical day at work. She finds herself constantly changing hats as the day’s demands and needs change.
Alisa encourages Culinary Arts students to volunteer for events whenever possible. “The best project I got a chance to work on was through The Art Institute, assisting Sara Moulton of ‘Sara’s Secrets’ at a food demonstration. It was an awesome experience.”