Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts was more than happy to welcome Chef Austin Yancey to its roster of instructors. With one seriously impressive resume and a background in some of the finest kitchens Chicago has to offer, we were excited to see what he could bring to the program. With a number of months under his belt, he has not only proven himself as an irreplaceable asset with the school but also as an inspirational figure for our students around the world. But we’ll stop this rambling to let Chef Austin Yancey tell you all of this.
He took a moment out of his very busy life to talk to us about owning his own private chef business, why he wanted to get into the culinary industry and the future of online culinary school.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: What is your background in the culinary arts?
Chef Austin Yancey: I took an interest in cooking at an early age, spending many hours in my grandmother’s “southern style” kitchen. That Greenville, South Carolina home was where I was first introduced to the concept of farm-to-table cooking and my lifelong passion for food was born. After briefly attending the University of South Carolina studying biology, I moved to Chicago to pursue a career in culinary arts, enrolling into culinary school. I took every opportunity outside of my normal classes to learn and experience more within the professional culinary world.
Setting my sights on fine dining in early 2008, I landed a job at Alinea, a Michelin 3-Star restaurant, working under Chef Grant Achatz. My time there was invaluable as I quickly learned the hard work and dedication that it takes to succeed in one of the world’s top kitchens.
While working as a full time culinary instructor and educator in Chicago, I organized and mentored the school’s competitive cooking team. Under my instruction the team has earned numerous medals in culinary events and has become one of the most popular extracurricular clubs at the campus. In August of 2011, I founded Elite Personal Chefs, LLC, a company that provides Personal Chef, Private Events, and Corporate Culinary Services!
In January, I joined the faculty at Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.
AESCA: What has been your favorite job so far?
AY: Owning a business. The collaboration between my team and I, building our clients experiences from scratch and the creative freedom to do it in the style of Sinatra; myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy wwaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy
AESCA: Why did you want to get into the culinary field?
AY: As a former biology major, I was always fascinated by science and chemistry. Now with food, I love to explore those sciences and how they can relate to customer experience and the finances of the business. I have also loved food since I can remember. I love creating things with my hands and throwing a party. Every day I get to eat, drink and be merry….and get paid for it. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
AESCA: What do you love most about being an educator with our school?
AY: The ability to work with students from all over the globe and different walks of life in a cutting edge, first of its kind, approachable and affordable online culinary program.
AESCA: What is the one ingredient you always have to have in your kitchen?
AY: Salt, Sugar, Vinegar – The basics of seasoning to make any ingredient in the world taste good.
AESCA: What do you think online culinary education can offer students around the world?
AY: The freedom and ability to go to school when they want to and how they want to balancing schoolwork with a busy schedule and life.
AESCA: What was your biggest culinary/pastry dish triumph?
AY: Duck Duck Rice – 1st Place – 2012 “What’s in your Wok?” National Cooking Competition sponsored by Riviana Foods, makers of Minute® Rice and other national brands.
AESCA: What are your top 3 favorite ingredients to cook with right now?
AY: Tea, Edible Flowers, Goose Eggs
AESCA: We usually all have one! Is there a food you hate?
AY: Unripe tomatoes
AESCA: Any words of advice for people thinking about getting into the culinary arts?
AY: The culinary field is not a job or even a career, it’s a lifestyle. Support your fellow culinarians and push yourself every day to get better, learn more, do more and be more. Start a business and make as much money as you can; then save as much money as you can. Plant a garden and start a worm farm. Eat well, drink well, work hard and play hard. Sleep when you have time, push hard when you don’t. Research and read everything you can get your hands on. Find a mentor and listen, one day you will mentor someone else. Challenge yourself every single day.