As a chef who has worked all over the United States, Chef Graham Mitchell is just as seasoned as the skillets he uses to cook. His work in some of the country’s most prestigious kitchens has made him adaptable to any environment, from the kitchen staff of the Ritz Carlton in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the rolling hills of California’s vast wine country. His Southern pedigree means one thing: that good food and good eating pumps through his veins. After a long career working in kitchens, Chef Graham found his calling in culinary education as the executive chef of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, CO. Now as the newest instructor with Boulder’s online culinary arts certificate program, Chef Graham is bringing decades of industry experience to students all around the world.
He took a second out of his very busy teaching schedule to talk with us about his favorite job, what he loves most about teaching and what he thinks online culinary education can offer the aspiring chefs of the world.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: What is your background in the culinary arts?
Graham Mitchell: I began my culinary career while attending a traditional college studying mathematics. After quickly realizing that this wasn’t my true passion, I decided to follow my heart. Although my first job in hospitality was bartending, I found out that working in a kitchen was my home. My beginnings were certainly humble having worked at a “wing joint” for several years during college. It didn’t take long to realize that I was headed down the wrong path from an educational perspective, so I decided to leave college and attend culinary school. After attending Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina, I spent some time at the Ritz Carlton in the Virgin Islands, where I discovered the beauty of fresh ingredients, especially seafood.
I decided to stay with resorts and relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona to join some classmates from culinary school at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This experience really opened my eyes to the many facets of food service. From there, I worked for two Chef Owner/ Operators who instilled an even deeper passion for food, Lenard Rubin of Medizona and James McDevitt of Hapa. In only a couple of years, I had the opportunity to run Hapa as the Executive Chef. Next, I chose to join Chef McDevitt once again on an amazing venture in Napa, California by the name of Budo. Once that restaurant was up and running, I moved to Texas to be closer to family. This is where I discovered my passion for culinary education. I worked for Le Cordon Bleu in Austin for seven years before joining Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts as Executive Chef in Boulder, Colorado. I have now found my calling in online education!
AESCA: What has been your favorite job so far?
GM: I would have to say that working at the Ritz Carlton in the USVI as a young cook was an amazing experience. I took a ferry every day from St. John to St. Thomas and walked along the beach to work. Being that close to the ocean and working with such fresh seafood was a true inspiration.
AESCA: Why did you want to get into the culinary field?
GM: My answer for this is always simple but true – I love to eat!
AESCA: What do you love most about being an educator with Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts?
GM: Having the opportunity to enrich the lives of future culinarians. I had so many positive influences in my culinary journey that I just want to pass this passion along. Also, nothing is more inspiring than seeing that “aha” moment in a culinarian.
AESCA: What is the one ingredient you always have to have in your kitchen?
GM: Butter. If it’s the French way, then I may have actually been adopted.
AESCA: What do you think online culinary education can offer students around the world?
GM: An opportunity to take the step towards a rewarding career path without having to adjust life drastically. There is certainly a time commitment but being able to attend school with a flexible schedule affords those with dreams of entering this industry that chance.
AESCA: What is your favorite restaurant in the world and why?
GM: The best meals I’ve ever eaten were from the kitchens of Daniel Humm. I had the opportunity to savor his cuisine at both Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco as well as Eleven Madison Park in New York.
AESCA: We usually all have one! Is there a food you hate?
GM: Sage! I have rarely found a cook who can use this herb without overpowering a dish.
AESCA: Any words of advice for people thinking about getting into the culinary arts?
GM: Read everything you can and always taste your food before it goes out to a customer!