Jeffrey L. Kennedy
The Art Institute of Colorado
Even the humble potato or carrot can inspire if you let it. Jeffrey L. Kennedy , Chef Instructor , The Art Institute of Colorado
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
Toward the end culinary school in the early 80s, I had an instructor who believed in me—and helped me believe in myself. He was my first mentor...an industry professional who told me I had real value, and helped me discover it.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I’ve been working in the industry since I was 15, from dishwasher to line cook to executive chef and now educator. I stay up on current trends, plating styles, new ingredients, etc. and share that with students, along with a lifetime worth of experiences—both positive and negative. The industry has changed so much in my 40 years. Today’s students have so many more professional opportunities that go way beyond cooking.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring—and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
In a cooking lab, the curriculum changes every day. I set challenging but achievable goals, then coach students along the way. If they “fall,” I don’t pick them up. I help them up, encourage them and discuss what went right and what went wrong. Once a student knows that you care, they begin to trust you.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
In our food styling class, Culinary students work with Photography students to create a shared portfolio. Culinary creates and plates the food and, Photography does the lighting and shooting. They all get energized, but I sometimes think Photography students get more excited because they get to eat some really beautiful food.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Hard work and persistence are essential in the industry. You don’t have to be the most talented to succeed. Show up on time, work harder than everyone else, be honest, and be curious. Always look for inspiration from people, techniques and ingredients. Even the humble potato or carrot can inspire if you let it.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve been honored to know so many great instructors and students over the years.