The student of the month for June 2016 is Rachel Stroia. The Flagstaff native grew up learning how to cook and bake with her mother. “I’ve always loved cooking my entire life.” Rachel’s decision to come to ACI came after working as a manager at Subway for 4 years. “I saw going to culinary school as a way to do what I love and work my way up in the industry. I got lucky finding ACI on my first culinary school search. I had no idea how great of a school it was until I started class.”

Rachel is constantly working hard to maintain her 4.0 GPA. “The most challenging thing about this experience was trying to push myself through it. I have high standards for myself, so it’s a lot of pressure to make everything perfect. Getting student of the month was really rewarding because it shows me that my hard work is recognized.” Rachel says that working with Chef Wolf and Chef Villarico has been her favorite part of the program. “They both made me want to work hard, and they reiterated why I love this industry and want to be a part of it.”

When she’s not at school, Rachel continues to learn by cooking at home. Another passion for her, besides cooking, is music. Rachel attended NAU for 1 year as a Piano Performance Major, but she is ecstatic with her decision to attend culinary school. “I still play piano a lot. I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old.” When asked what advice she has for people trying to get into the industry, she says, “It’s not just about cooking. You have to be thick-skinned, and it’s really hard work.”

A surprise for Rachel was when she made her wedding cake in Chef’ DeWitt’s Advanced Baking and Showpieces class. “I never considered myself artistic in the cake-decorating sense, but seeing my creation made me think, ‘I can do this, and I really love doing this’.” Rachel currently works at Essence Bakery, and after she finishes the program she hopes to continue working in pastry and have her own bakery or café. “I could definitely see myself getting a business degree to compliment my culinary diploma. I think my management experience could come into play as well.” Rachel loves the ability to combine creativity with the power to make someone happy with her creations.