The culinary industry has been revolutionized as a result of explosive advances in technology and the concurrent growth in global population. In 2021 the global foodservice and food retail industry generated US$ 8.3 trillion of which the United States was responsible for US$ 1.7 trillion. The media is significantly responsible for this unprecedented expansion, especially with internet based sources of education, information, networking and much more. However, I believe that an uneasy over-glorification of our industry lurks in the shadows.
We all see and read numerous visual media and written advertisements which depict beautiful food prepared by smiling chefs in pristine, Egyptian cotton jackets, which is presented to anxious guests by impeccably dressed, well-postured servers in a lavish setting. Don’t get me wrong…..this does exist. However, for the unsuspecting, starry eyed “I want to be that chef or sommelier, or bartender, or server”, there exists a blanketed reality. Identical to any other industry, this pie in the sky scenario requires buckets of sweat and tears (I purposely omit blood because as an educator one of my goals is to teach safety in knife skill speed).
I graduated from university with a degree in International Finance and Commerce. I worked in the international banking industry for several years and I finally mustered the courage to tell my father – whose footsteps I was following – that I needed to follow my heart and become a cook. Oddly, he was quite proud of me. I desperately wanted to attend culinary school but the opportunity evaded me until finally, after 14 years in the industry, I found the Arizona Culinary Institute. Over the years I had amassed a variety of skills in the kitchen and, as I soon learned, just as many bad habits. Six months following my graduation from ACI, I became an Executive Chef.
Whether blind luck or providence I do not know, but years later I ran into Chef Robert Wilson, President and co-founder of ACI, during an event at a winery where I “cheffed”, and he offered me a position as an instructor. Dreams to come true, and I wholeheartedly encourage all to dream. Dream big and patiently be willing to build the foundation to reach your pie in the sky. Don’t ever stop learning – constantly seek new knowledge. A common denominator amongst the greatest chefs is the perpetual pursuit of knowledge. Despite setbacks, they are not afraid to fail. They read, travel, experiment, learn a new language, all within the context of an unfailing work ethic. I hope to meet and work with you budding chefs at this wonderful family I call ACI. God bless and God speed!
Michael A Wolfson
Arizona Culinary Institute