Marci Oliver

If you want to work in the restaurant industry, have a sense of urgency. Marci Oliver , Culinary Instructor
, The Art Institute of Raleigh–Durham, a campus of South University

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I‘ve been cooking and baking since elementary school. I was always in the kitchen. In culinary school I fell in love with the kitchen environment—the heat, the hustle, the immediate customer impact. It was when I entered the pastry kitchen that I knew I’d found my home.

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

During both lecture and demonstrations, I use my real-world experience to stress how the things we make in class translate to the industry. Sharing war stories from the trenches helps students understand why they’re practicing a particular skill.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I believe everyone has an ingrained creativity. So in Introduction to Baking and Pastries class, I let students come up with their own plating ideas for their desserts. While they must follow certain guidelines (for example, how many garnishes must be on the plate) they have free range to make the plates they envision come to life.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?

In a restaurant, everyone has to pull together. Working in teams is the most valuable skill our graduates need—and it’s is my job to instill that collaborative spirit in my students. In our culinary program, students work together every day.

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

If you want to work in the restaurant industry, have a sense of urgency.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I believe passionately in the power of education. When we educate and inspire future culinarians, we give them the tools to enhance their lives and further enrich the culinary field.