Neil Jamieson

Culinary Arts

Culinary Instructor
The Art Institute of Vancouver

It's a big world out there. Don't be afraid to pack up and go experience it. Neil Jamieson , Culinary Instructor , The Art Institute of Vancouver
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I knew I wanted to cook, but I wasn’t sure what or at what level. My "aha moment" was my first shift at Le Crocodile in Vancouver under Michele Jacob. It was an inspiration and an eye-opener. The professionalism of the kitchen, the flow of food, and the harmony of all the moving parts in the kitchen between the cooks, front of house and the bartenders was amazing. And, the response from the guests was overwhelming. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do.

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

I think students appreciate the fact that I’ve worked the industry as a chef. I try to give them an honest idea of what it’s like in the industry—the good and the bad. I don’t sugar-coat it. In my a la carte class, students cook for real cooks with real opinions in real time. If the food isn’t right, we explain to them what they can do better. I teach this class the way I ran my real kitchens. It’s an eye-opener for students to have to do more than one plate at a time, remember all the orders, and do it all on time. I still get to be a regular chef at that moment, then be a teacher to go over what went well and what didn’t, and teach from there.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

In that same a la carte class, I have my students write a menu, create recipes, food-cost all the items, and do prep lists. Just like I would ask my sous chefs to do. They submit their ideas and I see how realistic it is. Is it balanced, is it in season, is it priced right for us and the customer, does it fit the theme of our restaurant? I love this assignment because the students usually have great ideas for menu items.

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

I tell my students to do all the work that’s assigned. If someone else isn’t pulling their weight, do their work as well as your own. You’ll get noticed. I always tell my students that they need to do their job, plus know how to do 30% of the job you want to do next.

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

Another thing I tell them is that it’s a big world out there. Don’t be afraid to pack up and go experience it. Cook your way around the world. Even if only for a year.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I had an incredible career that I owe all to cooking. I’ve travelled to New York and Paris, lived in Asia, and had the most amazing adventures and experiences. Not too many other professions can offer that kind of experience.