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Art Institutes

Culinary

Bring your talent to the table.

If you want to enrich the world with your talent for creating amazing cuisine—or ambience—start by experiencing everything from kitchen skills to international flavors.

Ai Teams Face Off in Emmi Roth Contest & Tour

On June 20, six Ai teams recreated their signature cheese dishes for a panel of judges in “America’s Dairyland.” Find out who shredded the competition!

Meet the cheese whizzes

Program Areas

San Antonio Baking & Pastry School

Baking & Pastry

Rachel Shelton

Digital Photography , 2013

The Art Institute of Colorado

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Use your talent and passion to turn desserts into works of art. You’ll explore everything from plating to preparing confections to managing a commercial kitchen.

San Antonio Culinary Arts School

Culinary Arts

Rachel Shelton

Digital Photography , 2013

The Art Institute of Colorado

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Starting with fundamentals like kitchen tools and culinary techniques, you’ll explore more than 20 of the most popular international flavors and techniques.

San Antonio Culinary Management

Culinary Management

Prepare to run both the kitchen and the front of the house, using your passion for food and your head for business to create a memorable dining experience.

San Antonio Hospitality Management Degree

Hospitality Food & Beverage Management

You can learn your way around both the front and back of the house while you prepare for the challenge of bringing something new to the table for demanding consumers.

Meet our Faculty

  • Christina M. Perrington, CEC

    Christina M. Perrington, CEC

    Culinary Arts

    Do what you love... life's too short not to enjoy it.

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    Christina M. Perrington, CEC

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

    While I was serving during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, I learned that one person could make a difference. I was a food service sergeant preparing meals for the soldiers in my unit. I used my years of experience and my creativity to make sure everything they ate was the best it could be. Good food boosts morale...and it’s my first love.

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

    I use my life and professional experiences—good and bad—to add context to classroom lessons and help students better understand the material. My stepmother is from Vietnam, and I’ve traveled to many countries in Asia, which is why I specialize in Asian Cuisine.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I ask students to build a business plan...I love teaching the purchasing and cost-control aspect of it. I try to relate all the material to students’ everyday lives. Most of my students don’t like math, so I give them as many resources as possible to help them feel more confident with the project.

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

    They have a wonderful opportunity to work with students from other programs in their business plans, portfolios and menu design—not to mention the chance to make friends for life.

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

    My life philosophy is that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. Life is really just an education outside the classroom. I love teaching students about food, which is my passion

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

    Do what you love...life’s too short not to enjoy it.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I’ve been in the culinary industry for over 35 years, and I’ve seen many changes in the industry. But one thing has stayed the same: success takes hard work and perseverance. Food may be a necessity of life, but it’s also my passion. And it’s an honor to be able to teach what I love.

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  • Gary Rice

    Gary Rice, MBA

    Culinary Arts

    "Be true to yourself and work hard."

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    Gary Rice, MBA

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

    When I was 20 years old and recovering from a life-threatening illness, I began to see my life differently. I spent the better part of two years in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. After recovery I decided to take on a new challenge...to take my love of cooking and make a career out of it.

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

    With over two decades in the hospitality industry, I have plenty of real-world experience to share in the classroom. It all works into discussions on motivation, self-discipline, and pride. I use my contacts in the San Antonio area to bring in guest lecturers, take students on trips to hotels and restaurants, and bring them to seminars and restaurant association events where they can begin doing some networking.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I love to teach Capstone. It’s an all-encompassing class that lets me see just how much student have learned in my program. Watching them during their cooking practical shows me where the school is in terms of attention to teaching the core basics.

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


    Listen, ask questions, and stay current with trends and technology. Be true to yourself and work hard. Work in as many different places as you can when you’re young... explore the industry, then settle down and make a career of what you love best.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    As a program chair, I treat every student and every one of my team members as if they were family.

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  • Gregory Williams

    Gregory Williams, MBA, CEC

    Culinary Arts

    Never stop learning, and don't be afraid to fail.

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    Gregory Williams, MBA, CEC

    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.

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  • Woods HS

    Mary Catherine Woods

    Baking & Pastry

    "Collaboration is essential in the kitchen. If one person falls behind, the whole kitchen falls behind."

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    Mary Catherine Woods
    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Baking and Pastry wasn’t my very first choice when I went to college. Growing up, like many Pastry Chefs, I always loved to create desserts and experiment at home. I never really thought I could make it a career.  After graduating with a BS in Merchandising and Management from The University of Wisconsin, I went to work for a company in Atlanta within the wholesale industry. As time went on, my passion and interest in Baking and Pastry continued to grow. The restaurant scene in Atlanta was on the rise, and I found myself being drawn more to the culinary scene than my current career. I researched culinary schools, and I enrolled at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Once I started school, I ended my merchandising career and started working in restaurants. For me, it wasn’t one defining moment, but more of a progression and building of a passion.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    While we have a structured program, I am still able to show them different ways of producing or presenting different recipes. They need to know that just because the recipe states one way, many Chefs may produce it in another way. Simply telling them stories of my times in the industry allows them to ask questions that may not be otherwise asked and weaves into what we are producing at that time. I also take times during class to treat them as though they are my cooks and we have a certain menu to create and have done and presented by certain time, as though we are industry.  

    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?


    Many students have the passion for this career, but at the same time can become overwhelmed once they are in the classroom. I try to break it down for them in terms they understand, as well as relate it to real life situations. Taking the time to work with them one on one as much as possible gives me an insight as to how they work, the way they organize, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. From here I try to help them turn their weaknesses into strengths, which in turn builds their confidence and they see just how much they can accomplish.

    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?


    Collaboration is essential in the kitchen. If one person falls behind, the whole kitchen falls behind. Constant communication within a team is crucial, and is something I try to ingrain in students. Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength. When the students are in groups, it only reinforces what type of environment they will be working in.  

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    To be a team player, listen, and ask for help when needed. Learn from your fellow cooks and Chefs. Not only will you learn skills that will advance you to the next level, but you may also learn what NOT to do when you climb the ranks in the kitchen. Always observe and never stop learning. Even when you graduate and are in the industry, go to other kitchens to do a stage for a day or two. You will be amazed at what you learn from other people, and in turn will help you grow.

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  • Michael Becquet

    Michael J. Becquet

    Culinary Arts

    If it was easy, it wouldn't have value.

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    Michael J. Becquet

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

    I grew up with a love of food. My family included farmers and restaurateurs, and my father was a produce buyer for a grocery chain. But my most memorable moment was meeting Graham Kerr, the “Galloping Gourmet” from early 70’s TV. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a chef.

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

    By doing just that—I always try to bring my own personal real-life experiences into the classroom to help students connect theory to industry practice. I often add to that by having students conduct interviews with local chefs and restaurant owners.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    When my students meet with culinary professionals for those interviews, they not only get an opportunity to hear a new perspective, they also begin to learn the power of networking in the industry.

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

    That’s one of the most valuable benefits of studying here. By collaborating with their peers from different programs, students learn more, learn to work together, and develop professional friendships that’ll help them for the rest of their lives. That’s a big deal!

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

    No one said it would be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t have value.

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  • Mike Buttles HS

    Mike Buttles

    Culinary Arts

    "One of the greatest assets of what we do is that culinary is the world’s most portable profession."

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    Mike Buttles
    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    My first position, after graduating from the University of South Florida in rhetoric and public address (speech), was as a property manager and trainer for residential and commercial real estate. In a very short time, I was promoted to a position where I was responsible to train new managers. I look back on my successes and can wholly attribute them to an ability to see circumstances and issues, including what’s for dinner, through the eyes of others. Face it; cooking for others, not yourself, is the credo for any practicing chef. Armed with this background and an incredible understanding in fiscal decision making that came right along with it, I eagerly approached the next learning phase of my life; culinary school in Paris, France.


    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    During the past years, I have been an instructor, an historian, an executive chef, a restaurant consultant, a program director, and a student for a very enjoyable time. Needless to say, a lot of this overlapped. One of the greatest assets of what we do is that culinary is the world’s most portable profession. I try to share my experiences in the industry and also connect the dots historically for students who have not traveled or experienced as many different cuisines.  


    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    My classrooms encourage sharing ideas and experiences. When we critique food we talk about the flavors, textures, and techniques used to achieve a finish product. I also focus on the business of foodservice to ensure that students understand that being a professional cook or chef is different from cooking in your home. You need to understand how to manage resources and, most importantly, time.


    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

    Collaboration in the food and beverage industry is how we take care of our guests. Assignments in my classes foster this collaboration so that students practice communication and partnership with others towards a common goal.  


    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    I teach students in my classes to be lifelong learners. I demonstrate to them that I am still learning and encourage them to not think of school as a thing you do once. Learning is a process of developing and engaging with the world to understand more over a much longer period of time.



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  • San Antonio General Education Faculty Christina Dixon

    Christina L. Dixon

    General Education

    "A closed mind never grows."

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    Christina L. Dixon

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

    My purpose in life is to educate people, whether formally or informally. I‘ve always had a strong desire to help others understand the importance of diversity and acceptance. As an African-American woman, I learned very early on that the world isn’t always friendly. But one experience turned it around for me. Early in my professional career, my professor asked me if I’d ever considered teaching. She’d seen my work, and worked with me at charity events. She told me, “If more people had been introduced to the world the way you see it, it might be a better place.” That’s when I decided to try my hand at teaching.

    The change didn’t happen instantly though because I wasn’t swayed.  It took a couple years of convincing from my faithful, persistent mother to get me to go out and actively pursue teaching.  I never saw myself teaching professionally but from what my mother and my professor saw in me, it must have been meant.  Here I am now, enjoying the interaction—both teaching and learning from the many students I encounter each day.

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

    I bring the real world of psychology into the classroom...and show that it doesn’t have to be boring or hard to understand. If I can reshape how my students think and behave by teaching some of the core principles of psychology, they’ll be better prepared to adapt in an ever-changing world—and more open-minded about the people they encounter. I do this by challenging their beliefs and exposing them to fresh insights about people and cultures around the world.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    All my class assignments are focused on discovery. I ask students to research and explore both common, everyday issues and those that are monumental and life-changing. As the quarter progresses, I ask them to explore their own lives...to apply what they’ve learned in class to reshape their lives for the better. Through this process, they learn to appreciate diversity—hopefully to accept themselves despite their flaws, and create unique and personal pieces of art.

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

    A closed mind never grows. An open mind is more exposed to the world. Art demands that you see the world through different lenses. If you want to be successful, you must be open to seeing the world untainted, in its true form. This is how the wise get their wisdom.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    You’re not coming to my class for a counseling session...but you’ll be calmed and enlightened when you leave.


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  • Jude Okpala HS

    Dr. Jude Okpala

    General Education

    "Everything is a process; failure comes only when we have given up on the process."

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    Dr. Jude Okpala

    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    A defining moment for me was when I wrote my first poem entitled “Africa” and submitted it for publication. It was accepted and was included in an anthology dedicated to Black Poetry. Such a feat fed my creativity, more so, to fashion meaning with words and reflect on human reality.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    I am a published writer, but I did not get published the first time I submitted my work to the editor. I was rejected multiples times and still get rejection letters today when I submit my work to publishers. I never gave up; I do revise the work and resubmit; at times, I search for outlets that cater to my work. Rejection letters like that, and any form of challenge, are opportunities for improvement; they are ladders for a higher plateau, and must be seen as such than as anything else. So, I tell my students that getting feedback on their work is an opportunity to improve on it. 

    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    My approach to teaching is essentially Socratic, and that means I function as a midwife giving birth to students’ learning; it means also that I do not see any of my students as tabula rasa, empty slate, that I have to fill in. They have their knowledge, which I must validate. With that position, my assignments call for critical thinking and dialog; it requires students to present what they already know about a topic and then align that learning with an opposing perspective.

    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?   

    Collaboration is key to students’ success in my writing class; such a position serves the cliché that “one head is better than one.”  On a more clearer perspective, collaboration offers exchange and building of ideas through dialog; it fosters civic engagement, which is crucial to proper engagement in the society. Coming from different cultural and disciplinary backgrounds, my students collaborate to navigate their different experiences and build on them; they see how interdisciplinary a specific area of study is, and they gravitate more confidently and comfortably to each other. They come to understand that no discipline is really a silo, but an integration of others. A photography student sees a connection with a film student; a culinary arts student sees a connection with a design student; and they all see a connection with “English Composition,” where composition serves as a metaphor for integration of perspectives to build a new reality.

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    I teach writing, so I want my students to understand that good writing comes through a process: I want to add a process of revision, which offers the opportunity to develop and improve on an idea. It would not be unreasonable to say that life goes through such a process; an encounter with failure should not define a person; it should be rather an opportunity to grow, to revise one’s perspectives and amend uncouth structures and styles. I would want my students to see life as such. Everything is a process; failure comes only when we have given up on the process. 

    Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

    I want students to know that my classroom is a learning community, where every voice counts and is empowered to speak and write about his or her perspectives. My classroom, as such, takes the shape of my students’ learning styles and builds on them with the goal of achieving active learning.

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