The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago
There's a lot more to being a chef than just cooking. Michael D. Howe , Chef Instructor
, The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
There really wasn’t any “a-ha” moment, but I always liked to cook. I went to culinary school and found I had a natural skill and a real interest, and 33 years later I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
Along with being a full-time chef instructor, I own and operate three successful restaurants. I always relate what happens in class to the culinary industry. I explain how the skills students are developing—setting up their stations and organizing their work area, breaking down a chicken, making a mother sauce, or developing and costing a menu—relate to the real world. I stress that the work habits they form now are the foundation on which they’ll build their careers.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
Students need to understand that there’s a lot more to being a chef than just cooking. I tell my students the same thing my instructors told me: It takes years to become a chef, but only minutes to dress like one. My students prepare daily prep lists and timelines so they can plan and organize their day…just like in the real world.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
The Capstone class is a great example of cross-program collaboration. I encourage students to seek out Interior Design and Graphic Design students to assist, guide, tutor, and mentor them in those areas. Not only does it help them with their project, it’s a good lesson in working with others while keeping a single vision in mind.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Treat everything like it was your own. Think of that chicken, that carrot, that pot of stock, that stove, that oven like it was yours—like you reached into your pocket and paid for it yourself. Treat them all with respect. Get the most out of everything you can. Then, when the day comes that it is your money, you’ll have the mindset to be successful.