Jennifer Minichiello, CEC

Culinary Faculty Member Jennifer Minichiello

Always learn. And always give back by teaching others. Jennifer Minichiello, CEC , Culinary Instructor , The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I’ve been cooking since I was 14. I put myself through college by cooking, both on and off-campus. After graduation, I didn't like the boring 9-to-5 of a desk job, so when I was 30 I went to culinary school, knowing I wanted to eventually teach. After 12 years of hard work, I came here. I believe that, as a cook and chef, you’ll always be teaching—and hopefully learning—in the kitchen.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I’m very frank about my experience in the industry. As an executive chef at the Aquarium of the Pacific, I worked from 8:00 in the morning till 10:30 at night every day... 14-16 hours a day, six or seven days a week. I think it’s important that students know that’s expected of them in the real world.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I teach by example. Show up on time, be prepared, be clean, and if you don't know something, ask. When I’m asked a question in the kitchen, I toss a question right back—not to be rude, but to help the student realize that they have the answer if they just look a little harder...or read their recipe. As a leader in the kitchen—over 50 employees report to me—I know that you need to train students to think logically and come up with their own solutions.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Collaboration is a tool that helps open up new options. I was part of a team that created the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday cake. We were lucky to work with the industrial engineering department, and it was fun to see what we all brought to the table... together we created an amazing cake.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Show up on time, work clean, and be open to learning. Any chef worth their weight can take someone who’s willing to learn and teach them. No chef wants to waste their time with a student who thinks they already know everything.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Expand your thinking beyond restaurants. Catering or a food truck may be more your style. You might love being in front of the house as a general manager. Find what you love and perfect it. Always learn. And always give back by teaching others.