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Culinary students taste life inside the James Beard House

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Culinary

November 21, 2016

Six Art Institutes culinary students from across the country worked alongside Art Institutes chefs at New York City’s James Beard House to prepare a multi-course Thanksgiving Day meal. This unique partnership allowed the culinary students to present a special, holiday-themed dinner under the guidance of chef instructors who were at the center of it. It was the culmination of hard work, dedication, and a culinary education that prepared them for this prestigious moment in their culinary lives.

Additionally, the students participated in an immersion day at the Urbani Truffle Academy and shadowed a chef at a New York City restaurant.  How did they get here? By competing against their student peers, hungry for the opportunity to cook inside one of the country’s most famous kitchens.

The Student Chefs

  • James Beard Award Kristine

    Kristine Futalan

    Associate of Science in Culinary Arts
    The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University

    “I never would have thought I would ever step foot inside the James Beard House and it is an amazing opportunity. This experience gives me my first opportunity to work in a kitchen with the guidance of some of the best chefs around.”

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    Kristine Futalan

    Kristine Futalan has always had a strong passion for food, but she says that her love for food grew exponentially when she studied Food Science in college. Kristine says that food science gave her a solid foundation in the physical, biological, and chemical make-up of food. Armed with that knowledge—she decided to pursue an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University. Her goal is to create food that’s unique and delicious, while understanding the science of why the dish came out the way that it did.  

    What do you hope to gain from your experience at the James Beard House?  
    One of my life goals is to open a successful restaurant. However, other than working as a pizza shop cashier and a barista at a cafe, I have never worked in a formal kitchen. This experience will give me my first opportunity to work in a kitchen [under] the guidance of some of the best chefs around.  What I hope to gain from this experience is simply to learn as much as I can from these chefs. 

    How has your culinary education at The Art Institute of California—Orange County helped you to grow as a culinary artist? 
    My culinary education has opened my eyes to several cooking techniques and methods. I had no idea that I had been boiling potatoes [incorrectly] all my life! In addition to this, my culinary education exposes me to cuisines and dishes from around the world. [This] enables me to channel my inner creativity and take cooking techniques and flavors from different cultures to create dishes that are uniquely mine. 

    How does The Art Institutes’ partnership with The James Beard House create opportunities for you as a culinary student?
    Having an opportunity like this is absolutely incredible to me. I never would have thought I would ever step foot inside the James Beard House and it is amazing that this opportunity was offered to [students in The Art Institutes system of schools]. I think it is so wonderful that this partnership gives [me] the chance to experience this event. 

    What is your favorite meal to prepare? 
    I love the simple build of a taco. It allows you to highlight the flavorful ingredients that are present. Tacos have an endless amount of topping options from pickled vegetables, to salsas, cheeses, sauces, and guacamole. Each of these elements vary in flavor, texture, and visually, and can transform a taco almost immediately. 

    The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University, is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University, 3601 W. Sunflower Avenue, Santa Ana, CA, 92704-7931. ©2016 The Art Institutes. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/353 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

  • James Beard Award -Jacob

    Jacob Richard Lechner

    Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts
    The Art Institute of Colorado

    “From this experience, I am hoping to make connections with other food enthusiasts and learn many different techniques for preparing such a [complicated] meal.”

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    Jacob Richard Lechner

    Jacob Richard Lechner says that he’s always been interested in cooking and is amazed when simple ingredients are transformed into something that’s breathtaking. He’s currently working toward an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Colorado. 

    What’s the most exciting part of being chosen to cook at the James Beard House?
    Just to [be able to] say that I’ve cooked and prepared a meal at the James Beard House is amazing. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From this experience, I am hoping to make not only connections with other food enthusiasts but to also learn many different techniques for preparing such a [complicated] meal. 

    How have you grown as a culinary artist during your time at The Art Institute of Colorado?
    My culinary [experience] has really grown at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Colorado. I have learned so much in just the short amount of time that I have been there. [Now that I’m gaining culinary confidence], I see myself experimenting more often and really stepping out of my comfort zone to try new things.

    How does The Art Institutes’ partnership with The James Beard House create opportunities for you as a culinary student?
    I think that the partnership with the James Beard House really sets The Art Institutes system of schools [apart] from many other culinary schools. The Art Institute of Colorado allows for greater opportunities [to learn in the field] than I would have ever imagined. 

    What’s your favorite dish to create? 
    I am always asked what is my favorite thing to cook, and I always have a hard time answering that question. I have too many. I could list them all but that would take up too much space. If I had to narrow it down to a specific cuisine, then I would say Italian is at the top.  

    The Art Institute of Colorado is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of Colorado, 1200 Lincoln Street, Denver, CO  80203-2172. ©2016 The Art Institutes. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/912 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

  • Cristian Pino

    Associate of Science in Baking & Pastry
    The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University

    “I hope to learn from great chefs. The James Beard House experience is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I do not take for granted.”

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    Cristian Pino

    Cristian Pino says that he’s loved cooking for as long as he can remember. He used to stand in the kitchen, watching his mother create food—an experience that he equated with her “showing her love for her family.” Today, he’s working toward an Associate of Science in Baking & Pastry from The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University.

    How will cooking at the James Beard House begin to shape your culinary future?
    I hope that this [experience] will let me embark upon the first step of a culinary journey into fine dining. I hope to learn from great chefs and to make lasting friendships with the other students who have been selected in this competition. The James Beard House experience is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I do not take for granted—and one that I hope can [continue to be experienced by] other culinary students in the future. 

    How has your education prepared you to cook at the James Beard House?
    My culinary education has helped me to see a broader view of the world, through the flavors and techniques I have learned about at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California—San Diego. I can see more of a place's past and its history through the food that is prepared—and through watching the people who enjoy eating [the traditional foods].

    What is your favorite meal to prepare?
    My favorite meal is any one that I can set before the people I care for the most. If it brings a smile to the faces of those who I love, it is my favorite.

    The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University, is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University, 650 Mission Valley Road, San Diego, CA 92108-4423. © 2016 The Art Institutes.  All rights reserved. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/366 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

  • Nancy N. Ruiz

    Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts
    The Art Institute of Wisconsin

    “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined [I’d have] an opportunity this grand. Having [gotten to this place in the] contest, over so many other qualified candidates, really opens my eyes to the possibilities.”

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    Nancy N. Ruiz

    Nancy N. Ruiz says that her culinary inspiration comes from her daughters. Nancy has always enjoyed cooking and being in the kitchen—and the time spent there with her children helped them to value wholesome home cooking. She says that her daughters will now try almost anything she gives them—and she loves that her children encourage her to make her food for others. Nancy is working toward an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Wisconsin. She believes that by earning her degree, she’ll show her children how much she’s appreciated their support. 

    What do you hope to gain from your experience at the James Beard House?
    Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined [I’d have] an opportunity as grand as being able to assist at an event on Thanksgiving Day at the James Beard House. Having [gotten to this place in the] contest, over so many other qualified candidates, really opens my eyes to possibilities that I considered to be out of reach for a single, 40+, mother of three. I plan to go into this very exciting experience with great personal expectations; I wish to soak in as much as I can from the talented chefs I will be assisting. And I want to take in all of the energy and great people [that I’ll encounter]. I can only hope that this opportunity serves me as a gateway to great possibilities after graduation.

    How has your education at The Art Institute of Wisconsin helped you to grow as a culinary artist?
    My culinary education at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Wisconsin has been so helpful in fine-tuning my skills as a cook. Now, I think like a chef. It’s common knowledge that a plate brought out to a customer should first and foremost be appealing to the eye in order to become appetizing to the consumer. But it’s not so well known that every piece of food that went on to that plate has its own place there. It’s the small things like plating, presentation, knife techniques, proper terminology, and the ability to convert measurements in an instant and that can—and will—set you apart from the rest. A well-prepared meal should be equally satisfying to the chef preparing it and to the consumer. It should definitely leave them coming back for more.

    How does The Art Institutes’ partnership with The James Beard House create opportunities for you as a culinary student?
    This partnership is unlike any ‘internship.’ This opportunity is a real-life scale of what one should aspire and work to become after spending the grueling hours in school studying and applying the art. It is a privilege and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness and participate in a grand scale dinner event, catered to the very last detail and for the most passionate of tasting palates. It is going to be a personal honor of mine to be working alongside the chefs and to be present in a room with such great names in the cooking industry.

    What is your favorite meal to prepare?
    In my family, we are big on good meat and fresh seafood. I really enjoy making variations of steak and shrimp/seafood. Whether it be tender pieces of tenderloin, fillets of eye of round, or a juicy T-bone, it’s perfectly paired with some nice coconut baked shrimp, deep-fried prawns, or a nice handful of crab legs. This could all be paired with sweet corn and baby red potatoes or a nice clam chowder with lump chunks of fresh clams and mussels.

    The Art Institute of Wisconsin is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of Wisconsin, 320 East Buffalo St., Suite 100, Milwaukee, WI 53202. ©2016 The Art Institutes.  All rights reserved. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/2784 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

  • James Beard Award - Tien

    Tien Dung Tran

    Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management
    The Art Institute of Atlanta

    “For a student chef, [this experience] is overwhelming. I will learn from experienced chefs, [and see] what the atmosphere is like [in the busy kitchen].”

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    Tien Dung Tran

    Tien Dung Tran says that he loves and respects food, and that he believes that food should not just be eaten—it should be enjoyed. He’s working toward a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

    How will the experience at the James Beard House begin to shape your culinary future? 
    [Cooking at] The James Beard House is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be honest—I am still hyped about it! This is the [type of] event that many people dream about but never get a chance to [experience]. For a student chef, it is overwhelming. I am sure that I will learn a lot from the experienced chefs, [as well as] what the atmosphere will be like [in the busy kitchen].

    How has your education at The Art Institute of Atlanta helped you to grow as a culinary artist?
    One thing I’ve learned from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta is that the rules are made to be broken—by people who can [break them]. There are many ways to cook a dish but people often think there is nothing else you can do to change it. My culinary education teaches me that, if you are good enough, you can break the rules and people will [view it as being] innovative.

    How does The Art Institutes’ partnership with The James Beard House create opportunities for you as a culinary student?
    I believe that this is a huge opportunity. I’ll experience the real deal—not like working in a casual, commercial kitchen, but a well-known and respected kitchen. This will help me to gain a lot more experience, knowledge, and skills by meeting and working with respected and experienced chefs at the event.

    What is your favorite meal to prepare?
    I enjoy preparing sautéed fish. When I was a kid, like many other kids, I did not like fish at all. However, as I grew up I learned to cook fish the right way—not overcooked. Trust me, if you cook fish in the way it should [be cooked], you should expect the flavor to burst in your mouth.

    The Art Institute of Atlanta is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of Atlanta, 6600 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30328-1649. © 2016 The Art Institutes.  All rights reserved. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/313 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

  • James Vest

    Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management
    The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

    “The James Beard student experience is potentially a life changer. It’s one of the world’s biggest stages in food. I [am looking forward to seeing] what it’s like in the fine dining world –and what better opportunity [could I ask for] than this?”

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    James Vest

    James Vest has been interested in culinary arts since childhood. He started cooking food alongside his grandmother in the mountains of Virginia—picking fresh green beans, cleaning them, then preparing them for the family’s dinner. He notes that even still, his grandmother’s green beans recipe is his favorite food. As he grew older, he looked to his stepfather, a cook, for culinary inspiration. This relationship instilled in James a love of baking breads and trying new foods and recipes.  

    What do you hope to gain from your experience at the James Beard House?  
    The James Beard experience is potentially a life changer. It’s one of the world’s biggest stages in food. I [am looking forward to seeing] what it’s like in the fine dining world –and what better opportunity [could I ask for] than this? I’m looking forward to meeting many other chefs and getting my foot in the door for the future. 

    How has your culinary education at The Art Institute of Charleston helped you to grow as a culinary artist? 
    The education on how to be a better manager and/or owner has helped me tremendously. The cooking aspects have been great as well. I had worked in restaurants for about 16 years [before I started school], so I had experience and know little tricks to help in a pinch. But I wanted more refinement and more understanding of the techniques I’d learned or taught myself along the way. The journey will never stop, but this is giving me an even larger depth of knowledge to work with—and an even greater desire to learn and soak up anything that’s cooking or food related. 

    How does The Art Institutes’ partnership with The James Beard House create opportunities for you as a culinary student?
    The more opportunities [that I, as a student] have to participate in partnerships like this, the better experience [I gain in culinary school].

    What is your favorite meal to prepare? 
    I am always trying something I haven't eaten or tried before. I really enjoy reading cookbooks for new techniques. I’ve made pizzas off and on for more than 15 years and there is nothing more fun than tossing pie. It helps that I am really good at it, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty easy. 

    The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, 24 North Market Street, Charleston, SC 29401-2623. ©2016 The Art Institutes. Our email address is materialsreview@aii.edu.  

    See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/396 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

A Culinary Feast for the Eyes

To earn their spot at the James Beard House on Thanksgiving Day, our six culinary students had to create a sample late fall or Thanksgiving menu that featured hors d’ oeuvres and a five course menu. They also had to submit an original recipe for one of their menu items. Once they were chosen for the prestigious event in New York City, the chefs-in-training began preparation for a five-day event that all referred to as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

  • Kristine Futalan

    Salad of Roasted Delicata Squash, Autumn Duqqa and Saba Vinaigrette

  • Jacob Richard Lechner

    Black Truffle Panna Cotta

  • Christian Pino

    Espadon Betterave Truffe

  • Nancy N. Ruiz

    TurTruffleSant

  • Tien Dung Tran

    Beet and Haricot Vert Salad

  • James Vest

    Pan Seared Mackerel, Sweet Potato-Pear Hash, Fried Mackerel Skin, Rosemary-thyme Olive Oil

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Culinary

November 21, 2016