The Art Institute of Houston
Put one foot in front of the other and never give up. Tommy Child , Chef Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
It has a lot to do with Julia Child. When I was 12 years old, I made my first Beef Bourguignon from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Simone Beck. I watched her on TV when I was a kid, and I met her in 1990 when I was the executive pastry chef at Cafe Annie.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I give my students "the good, the bad, and the ugly." I tell them it's a tough journey. You have to make sacrifices and compromises every day. So you have to find the passion, the drive, and the grit. Put one foot in front of the other and never give up. Make mistakes and own up to them. That’s how we learn in this wonderful, yet overwhelming industry.
How would you describe your approach to teaching and mentoring?
I’m honest with my students about the realities of the industry. From the physical demands and potential dangers, to the need to appreciate the diversity of cultural differences and the importance of working together. I urge them to push themselves, not to be afraid to take chances, and understand that there are going to be good days and bad days.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
I stress the importance of working as a team. It’s not just about success in the kitchen. It’s about making friends and networking. I tell students, "What if a classmate ends up opening a restaurant...they may remember you as someone with solid skills, and they may just hire you.”
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Constantly research culinary trends. Know the history of the foods that have impacted the culinary cultures in our widely diverse communities.