Michael Blucas started his culinary career in the rapid culinary scene of the early 90s. He worked his way up from dishwasher and line cook to Executive Chef at various local restaurants.
Blucas didn’t stop there, he was also a salesman for a major foodservice distributor and the Chef/Owner of his own restaurant. Yet, he finds teaching to be the most satisfying thus far. You can find Chef Michael Blucas by evening at the Mobile, AL Culinard campus teaching Fundamentals of Culinary Arts.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
I always wanted to do something that I was good at and that I enjoyed. I knew that I enjoyed cooking and I thought I was pretty good at it. I was working at a job that I didn’t particularly like, so one day after a particularly long shift I decided to quit and find something that I enjoyed. I enrolled in culinary school about a week later.
Is there an instructor from your own education that stands out in your memory?
Two actually, Chef Mark Serice and Chef Jim Hurtubise. Chef Serice was my garde manger instructor and also the Executive Chef in the first big kitchen I worked in. Chef Hurtubise was the pastry and baking instructor and his positive attitude and work ethic were inspiring.
What do you love most about being an educator with Culinard?
My favorite part about working at Culinard is that I truly enjoy going to work each day. I get to go to the school, work with food, and teach other people how to work with food. I feel like I’m helping enrich my students’ lives. Helping them develop skills and building confidence. It feels good knowing that I’ve helped in some way to make someone’s life better.
Getting to work with Chefs Wooten, Coker, Sawyer and Monsegur every day comes in a close second.
What’s a typical day on campus?
Each day I get to the school before my class meets. I go to the office, check my email and get set up for the day’s class. A few minutes before class starts I make my way to the classroom and greet the students as they come in. When class starts we discuss what we are going to be doing that day, I lecture for about half an hour and we go over the day’s recipes. After that I usually let the students take a short break and then we do a quick line up and get into the kitchen. I’ll do a demo if it’s called for that day and then I help the students with the day’s recipes, trying my best to not hover over them.
I find that students often learn better when they are given some space. After the cooking is done we evaluate what we did, talk about the food and what they think about it. We clean up the kitchen and then meet back in the classroom to discuss what’s on the agenda for the next day. I thank the students for coming and when they have all left I head to the Chef’s Office to do paperwork, grade homework, tests etc. I go over the curriculum for the next day, double check the recipes, go into the cooler and storeroom to set up any supplies we may need and by that time it’s usually the end of the day.
Best piece of advice you give your students:
Something I heard from my grandfather, though it applies to life in general as well as to culinary school. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. The more you put into something, the more you get out of it.
What is one of your proudest moments to date?
The day I opened my restaurant. It was a lot of work getting it going, a lot more than I thought it would be, but on the day we opened, I couldn’t have been any prouder.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Faster isn’t always better.
What was the last dish you cooked at home?
The last thing I cooked at home was a soup. It’s sort of my take on Tom Yum Gai meets Soba noodle soup. Chicken simmered in chicken stock with sesame oil, ginger, lime, soy, garlic and green onions. When the chicken is cooked you take it out and put in carrots, green beans, chili sauce and soba noodles. While the noodles etc cook you dice the chicken. When the noodles are cooked you add the chicken back in, adjust the seasoning and eat carefully. It’s spicy and hot!