Chef Chris Neary CEC, CCA, AAC — On Passion and Hard-Work of AHA Students

My time spent with the students and instructors at the American Hospitality Academy several summers ago is an experience I will never forget. My traveling companion ,Chef Ty and I were treated like dignitaries by everyone we met.

It was a pleasure and an honor to get to lecture in front of and work along side of such a dedicated group of young culinarians, many of who I still keep in contact with through Facebook and my daily Chef’s Start of Day email blasts.

I was particularly impressed by the level of intensity the students displayed in their daily quest for knowledge. I often talk about passion in my daily emails and will add any of you to the list that wishes to join in.

I’ll never let the crew and students from AHA escape my memories and look forward to the chance to someday return to your country.

Respectfully,
Chris Neary CEC, CCA, AAC

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Chef Dave Curaming is back in the USA.

When I enrolled in AHA I did not fully anticipate the hardships and struggles I would face.  But I am sure all students feel these at times.  I frequently battled frustrations while understanding I needed to maintain a good temperament and attitude. 

In the end, the struggles paid off.  I realized that AHA and its staff are molding their students to have a better future possible, and the struggles are necessary to our success. 

As a result, I gained a rewarding U.S.-based internship that I will treasure for a lifetime. 

I learned so much from professional and personal standpoint, and AHA set me up for that. My culinary knowledge was boosted from my graduation at AHA.  I will always treasure my education and the friends that I met during my journey with AHA.

– Chef Dave Curaming.

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Chef KR Oquindo ( Now an intern at Resort Squaw Creek, California. )

American Hospitality Academy has given me a living hell of unnecessary pressure and hardships at the kitchen. But it made me work with perseverance and determination as I take the road less traveled.

When I first started my degree in school, AHA are molding the student to become like soldiers. Wherein they follow set of standards or systems that are built to prepare the students at the reality of being a cook which are backbreaking and laborious.

First the school thought me “Fundamentals” like knife skills, cooking methods, sauces and stocks, cooking terminology and so forth. Secondly, discipline, for instances I can’t be late, uniforms should be wrinkle free, all cooking equipment must be complete, books, homework, notebooks and pen are no exception as well and so on. Lastly it made me develop my attitude and character.

To be frank, Chef Gene is like Gordon Ramsay, strict and keeps shouting at everyone, sending students home whom can’t comply to the rules and regulations of the school. Yet in the long run, he’s been simply doing this “training method” to show the students that the kitchen is not for a faint of heart rather a passion and desire to cook relentlessly regardless of the pressure that the world has to offer.

It has been an honor for me that I had survived and learned from him — his methods at the kitchen, made me competent enough to work, rather exceptionally a “seasoned chef” at the kitchen especially at the USA. Without his methods, I may not be able to handle the responsibility of leading the morning banquet at my current sponsored workplace, internship program, here in the USA.

– Chef KR Oquindo

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Chef Tamer’s

Coming from a Non Art related course, never did I think that I’ll be entering this field. Browsing on to several culinary schools, I came across American Hospitality Academy which happened to be my brother’s suggestion.

AHA helped me learn and bring out the skills that I didn’t know I have. From making all those weekly menu list needed for our Upper East duty, to those sleepless nights peeling hundreds of potatoes and filing the portfolio of the menus and demos.

Class starts at 6:45 am. But these things taught me to be more responsible, knowing my priorities and managing my time.

– Chef Tamer Hussin

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Chef Aaron’s

I never thought that I will end up taking culinary arts in college, but I don’t have any regrets at all. It feels like the most awesome thing will happen to you when you least expect it. And so I am thankful that I ended up in AHA Philippines. Not only because it made me a World Class Professional Chef but also a well disciplined member of the society.
Many people might say that Culinary Arts is an easy course to take up in college, I strongly disagree. In order to succeed in this industry, an individual must have the knowledge, punctuality, and discipline. The skills will be developed along the way.
AHA doesn’t only train students how to cook and work in a kitchen, they also train us to be disciplined in every aspect. In my experience in the school, I was lacking one equipment and they didn’t allow me attend the class. That moment served as a lesson for me to check my equipment if they are complete and be always prepared and ready for everything. AHA’s way of disciplining is unorthodox but I’ll say it’s effective and I will embrace it throughout my career.

AHA’s method of training made me perform well in my internship in the United States. Although at first it was hard to adjust because they have methods that are different from what I learned in school and so I had to adapt.

I am thankful for all the good and bad memories I left with.

I am a proud graduate of American Hospitality Academy – Philippines

-Chef Aaron Paca

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Chef Rush’s

It’s really difficult to suggest to my mom, which culinary school I should go to. But when i told her about the programs that AHA offers that other culinary school don’t have she is finally convinced that this will be a perfect training ground for me. We didn’t make a mistake by choosing AHA. American Hospitality Academy is a perfect training ground for aspiring chefs, they will help you to mold and hone your talents and skills.
Perseverance and patience, these are the things that AHA thought me. Working in a real kitchen is not easy but with the help of AHA it was a lot easier. AHA instructors are keen to detail and very strict even to the smallest details like uniform, tools, homework and attendance. This small details makes a big difference when working in a real kitchen. Thats the time when i realized and appreciated what AHA did for us. AHA don’t spoon feed the students but they let the students experience the hell kitchen can turn out to be.

– Chef Rhosher Lynn Tan.

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Chef Tin Angeles, Katsuya South Beach, Miami

Studying in AHA Philippines is definitely not for the faint of heart. I remember how I found it a little weird that the interview questions for admissions included, “Do you have Hemophobia?” and “Do you easily cry when scolded?”. It felt a lot like Mrs. Cordova was trying to scare me, instead of convincing me to study in AHA. Even one of my friends who was a student of AHA at that time, told me how absurd the rules of the school are. But before you think this is one awfully written hateful testimonial, let me tell you about how AHA has helped me grow not only in this profession but also as a person. I must admit (and I never thought I would say this), I am truly grateful to have chosen to study in AHA.

When I started attending AHA, everything felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I have been cooking for my friends and family, long before I knew what mirepoix and mis en place mean.  I have always loved food and the science behind it, and studying Culinary Arts was initially just to gain a degree that is somehow related to my interests. I didn’t know I wanted to be a chef, until AHA helped me realize the unfathomable depths my talents can reach. I do not say this because I am overconfident nor am I bragging about what I can do, or who I can be. It is all about how AHA has given me the best foundation regardless of the path I choose to follow.

What I have learned from AHA is way beyond my own expectations. I could read Wayne Gisslen’s “Professional Cooking” book from cover to cover and still I would fail Culinary for being a minute late. I could ace the final exams knowing the standard size of a julienne is  1⁄8 × 1⁄8 × 1–2 inches (or 3 × 3 × 25–50 in millimeters), but instead I would not even get to try for the highest score, just because I’m one spatula short of my toolbox. This may not make sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced the “AHA way”. Believe it or not, it is not as bad as it sounds. These are, in fact, the things that have made me not only the toughest, but more importantly, the most responsible person I didn’t think I could be.

It was hard to follow them at first, until I realized that the rules they set are not made to give us a hard time, but to mold us into the best possible versions of ourselves. I could have gone to a different school, and could have learned through the conventional way. I could have graduated earlier; I could probably even be the lucky student giving out the graduation speech. I could have known different people, different from my AHA friends and chefs whom I now consider my family. But I chose AHA. I have chosen to stay positive during the toughest times — the times I had come to know who I am, who I was and who I want to be. I chose AHA, and I am glad I did.

Chef Tin Angeles
Katsuya South Beach, Miami, FL

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Chef Hana’s

I had 2 options when I decided to take culinary course. I had ISCAHM and AHA in mind. I’m glad that I chose AHA because not only it was cheaper but the school also has high teaching standards. It was all worth it. The culinary skills I learned from AHA were all very useful because up till now, I am still able to apply everything I learned with my current job.

AHA trained me well not only as a professional Chef but as a stronger and better person in whatever industry I may pursue. AHA taught me how to work well in a team and with other people. With the rapid change of manpower in my current job, it was easy for me to adjust since as I’ve mentioned, I was trained well. Being a Chef requires a lot of energy and hard work. And that means working on long and sometime late hours continuously. AHA gave me that experience too. To be on my feet for long hours doing preps, cooking and cleaning. And not to forget, doing all those things under pressure. And now I know that all those experiences from AHA are just for me to be well prepared in the real world.
I believe with the many sayings about the “never stop learning”, because there is so much more there for me that I still have to know and share to others to become a better Chef.

– Chef Hana Tuano
(Assistant Kitchen Manager at Maisen Japanese Restaurant )

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Chef Japz’s

One of the reasons I am thankful that I attended AHA than other schools is because of the of the student atmosphere where everybody helps each other ensuring that no one is left behind. one of the best things i learned in AHA is being punctual is a great thing in real work life, being on time especially on the first day of work tells how serious and dedicated you are in doing your job right.

I can say that the training experience in AHA is rigorous and tough, but that experience taught me to be a better chef, colleague and a better individual.

– Chef Japz Piamonte
(Line cook at Pinkshell Hotel Florida)

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Chef Giney Villar, CEC-ACF, Food Columnist, Purveyor of Historical/Regional Filipino Cuisine, and Owner of Feliza Cafe y Taverna

My formal culinary journey began at AHA in 2007. At that time, it was the only culinary school that offered Culinary Arts and Entrepreneurship. I was impressed that it was ahead of the other schools in terms of offering a business component to a culinary course.

I thought culinary school would be easy, as I already knew how to cook. But, as the days wore on, I realized that professional cooking was very different from home cooking. There were principles to master, standards to meet and skills to hone. It had math, science, ethics and even law!

Culinary school is challenging. Body and mind as well as one’s emotions have to be in harmony. So much goes into a seemingly simple dish to make it look effortless.
The three most important things I learned from AHA continue to guide me in my culinary career. One, get your basics down pat. You cannot make anything complicated without an understanding of your basics. A complex thing, is just a combination of many simple parts.

Two, learn to be disciplined. There are many chefs out there who probably have an innate talent for cooking. However, without discipline, this genius will be wasted. You need to meet deadlines, focus on what you need to do despite the challenges thrown at you. You need to produce the same quality of food worthy of your salt, every time required, no matter what you are feeling.
Three, many things you need to know, you will learn from working in a kitchen. Cooperation, humility, leadership, and responsibility were inculcated at AHA. As you become more proficient in kitchen skills, you will also mature as you learn more about the world, working with all kinds of people.

I think many people would benefit from learning to work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. To learn to pay attention to the minutest details, to work quickly under pressure, to be consistent, creative and bold while keeping cost down. I think taking up a course in culinary arts might help one find direction in the many areas that chefs can now go into—photography, research, writing, restaurant consultancies, niche catering and many other possibilities.

If not, at the very least, you can whip up a great dinner.

Thank you AHA, for teaching me how to seize the seasons.

Chef Giney Villar, CEC-ACF
Food Columnist,
Purveyor of Historical/Regional Filipino Cuisine,
and Owner of Feliza Cafe y Taverna
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