Brad V. Harmon
Never give up—no matter what. Obstacles are in your way for a reason: to build character and test your grit. Brad V. Harmon , Chef Instructor , The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
My interest was sparked by my rich family heritage. My ancestors came from Germany as indentured servants, obtaining land in northwest Illinois through the Homestead Act. My mother grew up in the original farmhouse, and my brother and I spent every summer on the farm helping my grandfather preserve and pickle food, harvest corn and soy beans, and tend to cattle and pigs.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I try to represent all the chefs who’ve helped me develop over the years. I create a real-life scenario in the classroom so the students understand the importance of timing, communication, and teamwork. I have to put aside my own personal approach to running a kitchen and staff, because the industry seems to have a harder edge than I do, and I want to make sure my students can handle it.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
In all my classes I assign research papers. Students pick their own topics based on their own culinary interest. I try not to put them in boxes, but they need to earn the opportunity to be creative by working hard, doing their homework, and being professional—which sometimes means simply showing up.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
Collaboration is key to generating new ideas and helping students see the big picture. I’ve had Audio students come in to record the sounds of frying, sauteeing, and the difference between a good sharp knife and a dull one. I’ve arranged a fashion show with the Fashion department so my students can provide food to match the theme. I’ve even worked with the Animation department on my own adventure—producing a cartoon.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Be present. Leave your problems and issues behind you before entering a kitchen...don’t let them affect your performance. A happy chef creates happy food, which makes a happy customer.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Never give up—no matter what. Obstacles are in your way for a reason: to build character and test your grit.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My whole life I’ve been searching for a career "home." The Art Institute of Austin is my home, and everyone I work with is family.