Kenneth Celmer

Culinary Arts

The Art Institute of Atlanta

Chef Ken Celmer

Teamwork and collaboration is essential in this industry, and I try to incorporate this concept into every class I teach. Kenneth Celmer , Faculty , The Art Institute of Atlanta

What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

After working as both an educator and a manager in the hospitality industry for many years, I decided to open my own restaurant in 1992. It was a success, and I went on to own three more. Today, as a faculty member at Ai Atlanta, I am able to help students realize their dreams and, hopefully, become successful in their own right.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

Having been in the Food and Beverage industry for more than 20 years as both a corporate manager and an entrepreneur, I have a very realistic perception of the challenges and opportunities that this profession offers. I try to incorporate this experience into my daily lesson plans on a regular basis so that students gain an appreciation of the reality of the industry, not just the textbook facts.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

In teaching Cost Control, Management, and Portfolio classes, students must develop menus and restaurant concepts of their own design. In reviewing these, I encourage students to observe current successful concepts and business strategies, and then incorporate these ideas into their own work in an original and imaginative way. I often work one-on-one with students to provide mentoring and inspire them to take their projects to the next creative level.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Teamwork and collaboration is essential in this industry, and I try to incorporate this concept into every class I teach. In the real world of industry students are going to have to successfully interact with a wide variety of individuals, often from different cultures. Being successful involves developing these skills prior to utilizing them in the work environment.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

The best advice I can offer any student is to discover what you truly love doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. I believe that there is one thing that each of us can do better than anyone else in the world; our job is to discover what that ability is, and then to pursue it with passion.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

Only that I have a lifetime of experience to offer my students, from teaching and living overseas in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to building a business here at home that I try to bring to the classroom every day. In addition, I enjoy working and interacting with students in a number of different capacities, including faculty advising, special events, and American Culinary Foundation community service functions. I encourage students to gain as much field experience as possible outside of the classroom through volunteering and participation in school events, as this can only serve to help them as they transition into the work world.