Alumni Stories

Blake Dennis

Culinary Management

Executive Chef, Smokn Aces
The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

Blake Dennis

The chef instructors and contacts that I met [while in school] were the keys that led me to various jobs that expanded my knowledge and honed my skillset. Blake Dennis , Executive Chef, Smokn Aces Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management, 2013 , The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
Blake Dennis is the executive chef for Smokn Aces, a food truck in Charleston, South Carolina. He’s responsible for working on the vision for the company’s food truck, revenue planning, staffing, training, food production, and food preparations. He also creates press and public relations materials for the company. He says that a typical day involves maintaining the truck’s “vital systems,” prepping the food in the kitchen, loading the food into the food truck, then delivering tasks to cooks and employees.

He admits that the culinary industry is challenging but adds that current students must keep pushing through. “A chef’s world is constant turbulence. Stay in contact with as many peers as you can because one day those people can be a lifeline—and vice versa. Pay attention to your gut—if a job or kitchen doesn’t feel right for you and there’s an off vibe, listen to that instinct.”

Blake says that a chef’s tastes, styles, wants, desires, and goals will change throughout a career. “Stay open minded and find inspiration in everything.” He adds that he has experienced many difficult situations in the kitchen, which have helped him to grow as a professional. The jobs took him outside of his comfort zone, and one in particular removed him from the kitchen and had him working mostly on a computer. He felt that the job wasn’t feeding his creative side but discovered that he was learning “a phenomenal amount” about how to create food systems. He decided to develop a hands-on culinary class curriculum for employees that allowed him to express his creativity. Blake’s innovation allowed him to move up to an executive chef position in the company.

Today as a manager, Blake says that he enjoys making his employees think outside the box by making them learn how a cook thinks. “I want to help form the way a cook thinks, not tell them how to think. Being a leader and not a boss is what aids in cultivating a creative culture.” He states that he takes pride in treating his employees as he’d want to be treated. 

Blake, who in 2013 earned a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management from The Art Institute of Charleston, says that his education was “in depth and taught [him] the theoretical concepts behind what he needed to do” as a chef. He adds that the chef instructors and others he met while in school were the key to helping him move into new jobs and build his skillset. 

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