Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
When I was around five years old, my brother and I opened a “restaurant” at our house for our friends. We set the kitchen floor on fire with a flaming grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve been cooking ever since.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I‘ve enjoyed plenty of success in this industry, but it’s my failures that I like to bring up in class. Students need to know that, as professionals, they’ll fail at something. The key is to not let it get you down...and to learn from every mistake, and every failure.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
It’s not a single assignment, but a class called À La Carte. I take a hands-off, advisory role and let the students take control of our student restaurant. The students help devise the menu, lay out the kitchen, and experience running an actual restaurant. When they’re empowered, when they’re praised for a job well done, students take the extra steps—and, in many cases, perform beyond their own perceived limits.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
Many culinarians think that being a great cook is all it takes to succeed. Not true. All great restaurants work with other talented creative professionals to bring their vision to life. It takes photographers, graphic designers, web designers, interior designers, and more to create a restaurant. We’re all good at what we do, but few are good at everything. Collaboration lets each person play to their strengths to create something great.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Never stop learning, and don’t be afraid to fail. That’s the advice I’d give my younger self if I had the chance. The first part is simple—you can never learn too much. In our industry you can bet that your competition is up late doing research, practicing, or checking out new trends. Don’t lose out because you weren’t educated.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I always say that getting into teaching was my happy accident. I never thought I’d be in this role, and I’m glad I was given the chance. Being a part of people’s education, growth, and lifelong success is a great honor.