Renowned chef teaches students art of running a kitchen

Sep 11, 2017

Across Berrien County students are packing up their backpacks and returning to class following summer break. 

This year, Lake Michigan College students attending courses at the Bertrand Crossing Campus in Niles will have several new classes and lab features to look forward to utilizing this semester.

Chef Luis Amado has traveled the globe lending his talents to multiple kitchens, restaurants and experts eager to learn his tricks of the trade, but where he feels most at home is in the classroom sharing these skills with his students.

For the past two years, Amado has served as the program director of the culinary management program, which has been available to students since 2013.

Those who enroll utilize the kitchen as their classroom to learn a spectrum of cooking techniques. When not in the kitchen, students study the business, marketing aspects and customer service skills needed in the field.

“They are going to take a little bit of every segment of the industry,” Amado said. “What makes us different from other programs is that it is not just the cooking classes.”

This year, Amado is excited to introduce two new courses that he believes will further hone students’ skills and serve the Michiana community.

Farm to table

In addition to having all the necessary skills to be the best chef or industry manager, Amado wants students to be able to cook sustainably by creating dishes from locally sourced products.

With a variety of local farms across the Michiana area, Amado believes the class is one that will provide many fresh options for ingredients, while supporting the local community. 

“The word ‘sustainable’ covers many aspects, but our main goal will be to teach them how to cook with local ingredients,” Amado said. “I am a firm believer that if you buy local food it is going to taste better. It’s good for the economy and sometimes if you buy from large companies the food has been processed many times.”

With the sandy shores of Lake Michigan and a number of fine dining destinations beckoning tourists across the globe, Amado said he sees great potential for the budding chef or business entrepreneur in the industry.

“I see this area as a gold mine. I think there is a lot of talent and a lot of demand for quality help,” Amado said. “In the St. Joseph area alone, there are so many restaurants. I think we are in a gold spot.”

Amado and an advisory board are currently working toward earning program accreditation through the American Culinary Federation. Amado believes the new classes may help to achieve this within the next two years.

Sweet spot

A quick scan of Amado’s Instagram reveals photos of delicately crafted chocolate sculptures that look like they belong in a museum, rather than on someone’s plate.

This year, students will get an introduction to art of food sculpting during Amado’s advanced pastry course.

While Amado has expertise in a multitude of cooking techniques, he is well-versed in creating high quality pastries.  Amado’s pastry training began when he was 14 years old and helped at his grandfather’s pastry shop. He also traveled to Spain and Belgium to further study the art of the classical European pastry. In 2006, he was named one of the top five pastry chefs in the U.S.

This semester, Amado hopes to create a holiday inspired village made completely from dessert sculptures.

A large feature of the class will also be learning how to make and work with fine chocolates that students will know how to pair expertly with locally made wine or beer. 

“We complete the circle by having chocolate and wine,” Amado said.

An early passion for cooking

Amado’s passion for culinary arts was fed by his work in the kitchen. Growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, Amado was inspired by his father and grandfather’s cooking. In addition to working in his grandfather’s pastry shop, Amado worked as a saucier at the Hyatt Regency in Guadalajara, where he ended up meeting Chef Carl Butenas, who was instructor at Grand Rapids Community College. Butenas offered to sponsor Amado in America, where he would go on to earn a scholarship to study in the culinary arts program at Grand Rapids Community College.

Since then, Amado has grown an impressive number of accolades. In the summers, Amado travels the world training some of the most top-notch chefs at resorts. He has also featured food dishes at nationally renowned events, such as the Olympics.   

Amado is also a business man who operates his own chocolate shop in Mexico. The experience is yet another palatable skill that Amado brings to the table when teaching students about all aspects of the field.

Prior to LMC, Amado worked as the as the program director for the Culinary Institute of Michigan for 18 years. 

While some may consider him a master chef, Amado said as a teacher, he has the opportunity to continue to grow in his career.

“That is why I love my job. I love to train others and you will never stop learning,” Amado said. “I always get something back from my students, whether they are culinary students with limited experience or well-seasoned, well-traveled chefs. You never stop learning.”

Written by Kelsey Hammon, originally published in Leader Publications on 
Tuesday, September 5, 2017