Chef Christopher Wolf of Arizona Culinary Institute, Part Two
Yesterday we introduced you to Chef Christopher Wolf of Arizona Culinary Institute. For anyone who ever wished P.E. existed beyond the 8th grade, Wolf's new idea is a dream come true. He's started the ACI Food and Fitness Initiative, an effort to incorporate lessons on healthy living into traditional culinary training.
Lauren Saria Chef Wolf (left), ACI running and cycling jersey (left)
The initiative was my baby and the president of our school, Chef Wilson, is super supportive when we have ways to better the school. He's very student focused, so anytime we have a way we can enhance the student experience, he's all about it. So I'm not charging the students for this, and I'm not asking anything from the school. I just have time and energy to devote to it.
Chef Wolf, who regularly runs full and half marathons and participates in races of all kinds, has always seen the connection between physical activity and the culinary world.
How did you become interested in being a chef?
It's all I've ever done, and ironically it related to working out too. I was in 8th grade playing a game of street hockey with a buddy of mine who was a dishwasher. The other dishwasher called out that night, so they needed someone immediately. So he said, "Hey, dude, you want to come in? One night, one night only. Wash dishes, they'll pay you cash under the table." And I said sure. The promise of 40 bucks sounded pretty cool.
Honestly, I really enjoyed that--the action of the kitchen and seeing everything going on. So I took a job as a dishwasher, which let to bussing tables, which led to prepping...and then once I worked on a line cooking? Never did anything else again. So from 14 years to now, 31, it's been 17 years of developing that and bouncing all over the country.
After moving from the East Coast to Arizona, Wolf decided he needed a change of pace. Drawn to the school's smaller class sizes and more intimate feel, he set his sights on ACI and hounded the school's president with weekly calls for six months until finally being offered a job.
In my career I always shot for the nicest, fanciest restaurants I could work at where we didn't do a lot of coverage but everybody's meal was very intimate and special. I just wanted to create something for people that is very important and personal. I felt I could do that better here.
For the past five years he's been trying to get a fitness program off the ground. He attempted several times to get an ACI Hiking Club to take off, but with only mediocre success. This time, he's determined to make it work and has extra support from the school. With the help of several local sponsors, ACI created jersies for students to wear when taking part in various running and cycling events.
Chef Wilson got with a company that created these gorgeous custom running, cycling and triathlon jerseys for us. He's been nice enough that any students who signs up for the more major events, gets a jersey. If nothing else, I wear the jersey and get exposure for the school by being the liaison on behalf of the school to the exercise and racing community.
Tomorrow we'll have Chef Wolf's simple and healthy recipe for gazpacho.