A Second Chance at Being the Best Chef He Can Be

Mike Hook, Arizona Culinary Institute’s February 2015 Student of the Month Gets Back in the game he loves and Dreams of One Day Experiencing Culinary Bliss in His Own Farm to Truck Business.

Mike Hook, Arizona Culinary Institute’s February 2015 Student of the Month was once on the fast-track to becoming the kind of chef many students dream about. Originally from Seal Beach in Orange County, CA, Mike followed his passion for baseball to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ where he played college ball, and then, he went on to enjoy a 10 year career in the culinary arts, working for restaurants such as Applebee’s in South Dakota and the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, AZ.

Hook has always had a knack for cooking, but life seemingly had other plans. “When one of my daughters was born with some complications, I decided to become a stay at home dad and raise my kids while my wife was in medical school,” related Hook. “I don’t regret that decision for a second.”

10 years later, and with the family now in a more stable position, Hook’s wife started to encourage him to follow his dreams again. Hook had performed many online searches in anticipation of one day returning to the field he loves, and Arizona Culinary Institute was first on his list. “I love it here,” smiles Hook. “ACI offers great classes – and we push each other, especially in the du Jour Restaurant, to create the best food we can possibly make.”

Hook’s commitment is obvious in his perfect attendance and 4.0 average, and he stays with a family friend in Scottsdale during the week, and then drives home to Flagstaff every weekend to be with his family. “Mike is very passionate with a great work ethic and good sense of humor under pressure,” notes Arizona Culinary Institute Chef Instructor Santos Villarico. “He’s humble and eager to learn, and he’s obviously making sacrifices to get to where he wants to be in this tremendous profession.”

Hook laughs at the notion that some of the other students call him “Dad,” but he’s excited to be back in the game and doing what he loves. He’s currently hoping to “stage” with Chef Rochelle Daniel, the Executive Chef for L’Auberge de Sedona, and perhaps stay for a few years, learning from this renowned chef, a former student of Chef Glenn Humphrey, the recently deceased culinary legend and Placement Director at ACI.

As for the future, CHEF, the movie, was a great inspiration for Hook, and once his fine dining externship is over, he’d like to operate his own farm-to-truck business.

“I love cooking and my kids have such sophisticated palettes for a six- and ten-year-old,” laughs Hook. “I just may be raising the next great generation of chefs from our family.”