Alumni Profiles

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Antoinette Williams

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Antoinette Williams

Chef, Peché Restaurant

Antoinette Williams, Culinary Arts graduate, left a job at The Seattle Repertory Theatre to pursue her love of cooking and to get a sense of fulfillment. As a new chef she is excited to grow with the food culture of the city and contribute to it. Williams is ready to make her mark and cook her food. She hopes to continue learning in the kitchen and working in restaurants until she is ready to open her own eatery one day.

"The culinary schools in my area were all too big and focused on the expected elements. Then I discovered Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. It was as if I wrote down everything I wanted and the school magically appeared. They had the local and seasonal approach I was looking for with the added bonus of sustainable cooking and the Farm To Table® Experience. I also didn’t want to go to a school where I would get lost in a class of 40 students. Escoffier was smaller which meant more interaction with my Chef Instructor.

When I started school I expected to learn how to make unique but classic food, but what I didn’t expect was all the other important things I would learn that I didn’t even know I needed to know. Finding the balance between knowing why certain flavors work together chemically and being able to experiment with non-traditional combinations is one of the most valuable lessons I learned here. I also had the benefit of learning from not only one, but multiple Chef Instructors. They were open to my ideas and were able to help me figure out why or why not to make certain choices when cooking.

But the real wealth of knowledge was in the kitchen dynamic. School really helped prepare me for the restaurant environment. I learned to work with all personalities in the kitchen. Learning how to cook my food properly when there is a million different things going on around me took some getting used to, but I am so glad I learned how because I now work in a downtown restaurant where I have to do so on a daily basis.”

Jeffrey Lammer

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Jeffrey Lammer

Kitchen Manager, Root Down Restaurant

Culinary Arts graduate Jeffrey Lammer wasted no time launching his career in Denver’s burgeoning culinary scene. Following an externship at Root Down, a hip neighborhood spot with eclectic décor and globally influenced seasonal cuisine, Lammer was hired on, primarily running the poaching station for weekend brunches (known as one of the top brunches in Denver). He continued to take on more responsibility: doing prep work, serving as assistant saucier, and working the line. Lammer soon was promoted to Kitchen Manager and officially asked to help open Root Down’s new space at Denver International Airport, the first farm-to-table restaurant in an airport. According to Lammer, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts provides the best – and most practical – culinary education.

"Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts taught me to be in touch with the classic dishes, not only from France, but also from Italy and Spain and from around the world. Most of all, it was a concentration on technique. Also, it provided the opportunity to work in a team environment with a bunch of other chefs to put together a meal. That is important.

That is what Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is: prep, put it together, cook, clean, and then you go home. And that is the way a restaurant is. I’ve worked with a lot of people from other schools and they don’t have as much hands-on experience (not as much lab time). And they are always running around to catch up.

Never be afraid to ask questions – that’s important. Be prepared to work really hard every day. There will always be some crisis or something."

John Hadala

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John Hadala

Pantry Cook, Il Posto Restaurant

When John Hadala, Culinary Arts graduate, first tasted a dish at Denver’s Il Posto, he knew two things instantly: that he just had the best meal of his life and that he wanted to work in that kitchen. Shortly after commencing his official culinary training at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Hadala began interning with the restaurant two days a week. The two-day-a-week internship led to his formal ten-week externship, followed by a well-deserved job offer as a pantry cook. His commitment to learning and working hard every day earned him a place in one of Denver’s best restaurants.

"One of the best parts about Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is they help you along the way to find externships. I went to Career Services and told them I wanted to work at Il Posto and they basically set it up for me. I went in and talked to the Sous Chef and then started going in two days a week to learn prior to my externship. At the end of my externship, my Sous Chef said that if I gave him a few weeks, he could probably get me a job. The reason I got the job is that, yes, they liked me, I worked hard, but also that one of the other Sous Chefs was leaving for another restaurant. So the timing worked out. You have to patient in small kitchens and you have to let them know how you feel, too.

One of the things school taught me was that it is very important to be humble. It is probably the most important trait to becoming a good chef, because if you have a big ego and you think you know everything, then you are not as willing to learn.

I think it is important to know that even if you don’t have the skills or the talent right now to make great food, you can still work in a really good restaurant and slowly learn to become a great chef. If you are passionate about food, you can work anywhere you want."

Vanessa M. House

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Vanessa M. House

Line Cook, West End Tavern

Vanessa M. House, Culinary Arts graduate, readily admits that she enrolled in school for the promise of the paper. She knew a certificate would further her career. What she didn’t know was how much she didn’t know. As a kitchen veteran (fifteen years experience), Vanessa thought she knew what she was doing. Today, working at Boulder’s West End Tavern, she says she is cooking the best food of her life thanks to the techniques she learned at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

"The reason I went to Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts was to make it a career and not just a job and living paycheck to paycheck. When I was first starting I was worried that I wasn’t going to get as much out of it as I wanted to, but I got that much plus more! I was really more about getting that piece of paper (certificate) as I knew that it would ultimately help me, but I didn’t realize at the time how much I didn’t know and still don’t know. It opened my eyes to all these techniques that make my food the best I’ve ever cooked in my life!

Escoffier provided the methodology behind the basic recipes of everything that I needed to know for production, like how to make a béchamel. Getting my culinary certificate gave me the confidence to know that I could come to Boulder and pick up where I left off before I moved here. I was running kitchens back home and when I came out here my biggest concern was, ‘Can I hack it?’ My Chef Instructor instilled that confidence in me to give me the proper tools and ability to work in any kitchen in Boulder.

Take it seriously, but also have fun. If you’re working in a kitchen and you’re not learning or having fun, find a different job. There are plenty of them. Live it and breathe it; don’t consider your career an after-school job anymore. Eat as much food as you can and make as many connections as you can."

Lezlie Mills Gibbs

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Lezlie Mills Gibbs

Head Pastry Chef & Co-Kitchen Manager, La Pâtisserie by Luxe Sweets

Lezlie Mills Gibbs, Pastry Arts graduate, has recently taken the pastry culture in Austin, Texas, by storm with her new creation “CroBrios.” The release of the new menu item was covered by several Austin media outlets and has started quite the buzz for the croissant/brioche hybrid.

"Because of the Cronut frenzy, we've decided to provide something similar to our customers. I've created a hybrid recipe — part croissant, part brioche — to bring CroBrios to Austin. We are very excited and hope that our customers enjoy our take on the Cronut.

Attending Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts has directly contributed to my success. For me, the Chef Instructors and courses built a foundation of knowledge, confidence and creativity. By working with people who did not attend pastry school, I have found that my experience at the school really did prepare me for my career.

Other schools don't offer students the ability to try different flavor profiles and really work on the presentation aspect and bringing your own personality into it. Because I had the opportunity to try anything in school, I was more confident in bringing different flavor profiles to my cakes and pastries in the shop. My coworkers would also look to me for on the job insights and information because of my schooling."

Stacy Walker

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Stacy Walker

Pastry Chef / Partner, Happy Cakes Bakeshop

An upbeat Pastry Chef and Pastry Arts graduate Stacy Walker practices her craft at Happy Cakes Bakeshop in Denver’s Highland neighborhood, where she serves as a partner in the business. The small shop deserves its cheery moniker with bright hues, patterned pennant garland, and the quote "Because everyone deserves a little sugar" whimsically painted along the back wall. Before attending Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Walker had a lot of different jobs and careers. She was tired of the corporate life, the nine to five, and having a desk job. Walker had a dream for a retirement job: To have a mountain town bakery and coffee shop. Her husband suggested she goes for it. Why wait for retirement?

“I was seeking part-time work while I was in at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and wanted something with a bakery. A friend’s sister was the original owner of Happy Cakes Bakeshop and was looking for a baker. So, I started as a part-time baker before becoming lead baker, followed by kitchen manager, and then general manager. In the summer of 2012 I became a partner. It happened to be a good time – they were looking for investment, I for growth opportunities; we negotiated, and I bought in.

My experience in the Pastry Arts program made all the difference for me. I went into the program as a good baker; I came out a professional baker.

Pay attention to what is not said during your training – watch how people are doing things in the kitchen. It is as simple as neatly stacking your eggshells for easy clean up or fluffing a measuring cup in the flour before scooping – the things people don’t think to mention, but help in efficiency and consistency. And, don’t think you know everything; there is always someone who knows more than you do. School does not make you a chef; you have to earn that title."

Diedra Rae

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Diedra Rae

Pastry Chef / Owner, Sweet D’licious

As the owner of Sweet D’licious Gourmet Cakes and Pastries, pastry instructor and mother, Diedra Rae, Pastry Arts May Graduate, likes a challenge. Taking the leap to attend the Pastry Arts program was a leap of faith that – in her words – helped to build character, strength and compassion. Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts enabled Diedra to approach her profession without fear, and a culinary school project led to her own business.

“I didn't mean to start Sweet D'licious, but we had a café project in school and I thought, 'This is a lot of work: planning a real business.' So I did something that I would actually use. Looking at all the overhead of a café, I thought, 'No, that's not what I want to do,' and I manipulated things to create a cake studio. It's pretty simple. I specialize in custom cakes — taking people's visions and creating a piece of art. I say it is art, not just cake.

I chose the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts for the smaller campus — it felt much more personal than other schools. The farm-to-table aspect was also a big thing for me. Overall, it seemed to be more of a humble school where you really have to work hard; some schools teach you that you are the best before you've earned it.

Culinary school broadened my knowledge — from international desserts to pastry fundamentals and bread making — it taught me the how and why. I gained the feeling of accomplishment and overcame the fear of moving into change. Now I'm not scared to do anything because I've already taken that leap! It's not just the program; it's the process and the strength that you get from doing it. I had all these great experiences that build character, strength and compassion. I have no limits now."