Hello ACI family.
I feel honored, yet again, to have the opportunity to update you on all-things-Arizona-Culinary in this newsletter. We have plenty of things going on to talk about, but perhaps that can wait.
For this month’s installment, I find myself in a period of reflection. As many of you probably know, ACI recently had the privilege of working with the Roca Brothers from El Cellar de Can Roca, which was voted 2015 best restaurant in the WORLD, and is located in Girona, Spain. Every year for the last 3 years the Roca Brothers have partnered with BBVA Compass Bank to embark on a World Tour and bring their food, through a series of “pop-up dinners”, to a select few cities around the world. This year, one of those select cities happened to be Phoenix, Arizona, and the chosen venue was the Four Seasons Resort in North Scottsdale.
In each of the cities the Brothers visit, they try to partner with a local culinary school to find student volunteers to help them prepare these amazing meals. Fortunately during their planning stages they found Arizona Culinary Institute. I was honored that from their initial contact with the school, Chef Wilson gave me free reign to pursue this opportunity with all of my enthusiasm. To make a very long story as short as possible, through many months of planning, emails, phone calls, scheming, and dreaming, we were able to provide 10 very capable student volunteers to work with the staff of El Cellar de Can Roca.
The road certainly was not always smooth. Even the student selection process was difficult. 27 students applied for the opportunity and we were limited to only 10 spaces. I wish we could have sent everyone, but unfortunately we could not. All of the students selected were thrilled. Some of the students that we were unable to select were very understanding, and some took it a little more personally. Those were difficult conversations, especially since I hate to disappoint anyone.
There were even a few tense moments within our instructor team. All of us wanted to be a part of it, but we were very limited in how many people we were allowed to send…sometimes there is such a thing as too much help. Because of my involvement from day 1, I was able to join our students every day, but the rest of the instructor team was only able to participate in a limited capacity, which caused a little friction as well. But nothing great is ever achieved easily.
As a “thank-you” for providing the brothers with our 10 student volunteers, they offered to do a master class at the school for our current students and any alumni that wanted to partake. The master class provided the opportunity for any students or instructors that were unable to be involved in the preparation of the pop-up dinners to still have some interaction with the Roca Brothers.
When the dust settled, 100 ACI staff, students, and alumni packed the Du Jour dining room for a 2 hour master class with Joan and Jordi Roca…an experience that still seems surreal to me. 10 ACI student volunteers spent 11 days working long hours beside the Roca Brothers and their staff from El Cellar de Can Roca to put out 3 nights of amazing meals to 100 lucky guests each night. The fact that ACI was able to be a part of this is still something I am struggling to wrap my head around. Of all the cities and all the culinary schools in the world, the chefs of one of the best restaurants in the entire world found their way to us. We were a part of something that so many people around the world would have given anything to be a part of. It was so much bigger than I ever expected. I find myself very grateful for having played a part in it. I am grateful to the Roca Brothers and the staff of El Cellar de Can Roca, to BBVA Compass Bank sponsoring the tour, to all of ACI’s amazing students for volunteering their time and wanting to be a part of this amazing experience, to the staff of ACI for working together to pull this off, and to our school President, Chef Wilson, for letting me pursue this opportunity for the school.
In the end, like so many great moments, despite the long road to planning this experience, it was over in the blink of an eye. I hope it left as big of an impression on everyone who was able to be a part of it as it did on me. I feel very lucky to be the Executive Chef of our wonderful school, and to have the opportunity to help generate experiences like this for the ACI family. In closing I would simply encourage all of you to keep pushing, never give up, and realize that there is no ceiling to what you are capable of. There is a whole other level of culinary arts out there, above and beyond what we see every day, and the greatest restaurants in the world are always on the lookout for that next young cook to mentor. Cheers.
Christopher Wolf, CCC, CSW, CCE, CPI
Executive Chef, Arizona Culinary Institute