Culinary Arts

Culinary Alumni

Alumni Spotlight

Since 1986 the SCC Culinary Arts Department has enabled hundreds of aspiring chefs to reach their dreams in Culinary Arts. This showcase features success stories from our passionate and dedicated alumni. Check back next month for another culinary alumni success story. If you are a Culinary Arts alumni and you need to update your information with our department, please complete the culinary arts alumni update form.

Valentina Huerta

Valentina Huerta
General Manager, Courtyard
2002 Culinary Arts Graduate

What is your current position and where are you working?

I am currently the GM in a Courtyard in Phoenix. My position entails being responsible for all operations, financials, sales and revenue strategy for the hotel. I oversee all department heads and communicate with the owners and Management Company.

What advice would you give potential students wanting to begin an education at SCC Culinary?

It is such a great program. Yes, it teaches you the basics of the culinary world, but it also teaches you the real life scenarios that other schools fail to do.

How did your education at SCC Culinary prepare you for the foodservice industry?

It gave me a taste of the real world. It didn’t sugar coat the reality and gave me the idea that I would earn a million dollars and expect to be a celebrity chef. It taught me solid bases to create and grow from.

What is your best memory from SCC Culinary?

My best memory is having many memories that I reflect upon quite often. Cooking for the first time on the hot line for dinner service was crazy and nerve-racking as time is so important. I was thrilled to actually be able to do it. Parade of Desserts is always a big high as you show off your skills to the dining room patrons and they have such great expression of happiness in anticipation of enjoying them. I had a great time working the charity event at the Wrigley Mansion and having access to all kitchen areas and hidden nooks and places a typical visitor is not allowed to see. My other memories are of the laughter and fun we had cooking together, becoming friends with the other students and chefs and bonding as a class. I truly miss going to school at SCC Culinary.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from SCC Culinary?

The real world is waiting, show your best game! Think then do.

What is your best memory from SCC Culinary?

The adventures with my friends were certainly great. We had a nice class that participated together. Also being able to represent the school in VICA.

What trait is most important when hiring new employees/cooks?

Good attitude and willingness to WORK.

What is your favorite dish/food to make?

Anything that takes +1 day to make. There is a certain energy from working on something complex and intricate. Delayed pleasure I guess.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hopefully having a job that enables me to have an organic farm on the side. I would love to grow and distribute quality product.Don’t give up ever!

Tracy Dempsey

Tracy Dempsey
Chef Owner, Tracy Dempsey Originals
1999 Culinary Arts Graduate

What is your current position and where are you working?

I am currently the chef owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals. We are a mostly wholesale dessert business supplying the dessert programs for several Valley restaurants. I am responsible for the creation, execution and delivery of desserts to my accounts. I also hire and train employees, oversee the accounting, marketing, purchasing, invoicing, chef and guest complaints and other business related functions. I wash dishes, mop floors, clean restrooms, tackle small plumbing problems and HR issues among countless other things that I forget.

What advice would you give potential students wanting to begin an education at SCC Culinary?

My advice to SCC culinary students would be to treat the experience like a job. Learn discipline, develop a strong work ethic, work on professionalism, exhibit respect for your instructors, classmates and guests. Most of all work to develop good skills, clean work habits and math skills. You will be surprised by how important those math skills are.

How did your education at SCC Culinary prepare you for the food service industry?

The culinary program at SCC gave me a real world feel for the industry. I left feeling prepared for an entry level position as a cook knowing that I still had much to learn.

What is your best memory from SCC Culinary?

I have many good memories of SCC. Many of my employees have been SCC graduates and it has given me great pleasure to watch them move on in their own careers.

What trait is most important when hiring new employees/cooks?

When I interview potential pastry cooks from SCC, I am looking for passion and a desire to learn. I am not seeking people who know everything rather I seek people who are open to learning from and working alongside me.

What is your favorite dish/food to make?

I wouldn't say I have a favorite dish to prepare; however, I love incorporating ingredients often assigned to the savory kitchen in my sweet preparations. Ras al hanout, curry, miso, soy sauce and bacon have all found their ways into my desserts. 
www.tracydempseyoriginals.com

Dana Rohr

Dana Rohr
Owner, Taste Buds
2006 Culinary Arts Graduate

​What is your current position and where are you working?

Owner of Taste Buds – manage all aspects of owning and running a personal chef and personal instruction company. Menu planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, accounts payable and receivable. Dana has provided private chef service for professional athletes from the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Phoenix Coyotes, Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics and celebrities such as Pamela Anderson.

Corporate Chef for Subzero & Wolf – works as a showroom and event chef. Menu planning, shopping, prep, cook and serve on at the showroom and on stage. I have to have knowledge of the appliances to demonstrate for potential homeowners and understand how foods cook in each appliance. I am also assisting in writing a cookbook for Wolf. Working at Subzero & Wolf has given me the opportunity to cook on stage with Karla Hall, Govind Armstrong, Ian Hall, Martin Yan and our local celebrity chef Jan Di Atri had me cook on her television show. Responsibility for that is having the pose, confidence and knowledge of cooking to convey what you are doing for others to understand and relate.

What advice would you give potential students wanting to begin an education at SCC Culinary?

Advice I would give is to go in with a clear and open mind. Go to culinary school to change your life for the better. Listen to the instructors and be as professional in school as you will be in the industry after you graduate. Don’t be afraid to learn.

How did your education at SCC Culinary prepare you for the foodservice industry?

The chefs at SCC taught me how to plan and prepare to cook for others. They gave me the knowledge and skills to create menus that make sense, understand food and labor costs, how to calculate portions, timing and execution. Timing of food is very important. I also learned the history of dishes, how to prepare them from complete scratch. There are so many things SCC did for me that I could write a book about them.

What is your best memory from SCC Culinary?

My best memory is having many memories that I reflect upon quite often. Cooking for the first time on the hot line for dinner service was crazy and nerve-racking as time is so important. I was thrilled to actually be able to do it. Parade of Desserts is always a big high as you show off your skills to the dining room patrons and they have such great expression of happiness in anticipation of enjoying them. I had a great time working the charity event at the Wrigley Mansion and having access to all kitchen areas and hidden nooks and places a typical visitor is not allowed to see. My other memories are of the laughter and fun we had cooking together, becoming friends with the other students and chefs and bonding as a class. I truly miss going to school at SCC Culinary.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from SCC Culinary?

The best employees are the honest ones who really do care to do their best. Communication is so very important as well. So the trait I look for is good communication with a genuine desire to work.

What is your favorite dish/food to make?

I have many favorite dishes so it is tough to pick just one. I create most of my own recipes. My banana leaf pockets are awesome filled with seafood, veggies, fresh ginger and herbs as well as feta and prosciutto then tied up in a pocket and steamed or grilled. The banana leaf imparts a great flavor and steams the food inside. Served with coconut rice and my spiced rum mango avocado salsa. I also have my Secret Sauce that I sell. It goes with everything and is quite addictive. It is especially great on pork tenderloin or grilled salmon. I see myself in the kitchen in 5 years and in 25 years. I prefer private cooking and giving cooking lessons. One thing about cooking is that you can do it until your very last day on earth. You can move anywhere in the world and get a job cooking for others. Remember that! ​​
www.tastebudsgourmet.net

John ClancyJohn Clancy
Executive Chef, Levy Restaurants
1997 Culinary Arts Graduate

What is your current position and where are you working?

Executive Chef, Levy restaurants, US Airways Center/Phoenix Suns Ordering, scheduling, food cost control, recipe and menu development, flavor profiling, sanitation control, new concept development, catering, hiring, pushing the envelope to make sure we are making the best food and making money doing it!

What advice would you give potential students wanting to begin an education at SCC Culinary?

Be passionate, this is no nine to five Monday through Friday gig. You have to have passion and want to be better than the next guy to succeed; otherwise you should study Accounting or something.

How did your education at SCC Culinary prepare you for the food service industry?

My education at SCC Culinary gave me the basic fundamental skills necessary to operate in a real working culinary environment. I was able to work clean and efficiently, while executing technique, understanding terminology and maintaining a sense of urgency. The culinary leaders that I learned from in the industry saw an employee that was passionate and knowledgeable.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from SCC Culinary?

Work hard, keep your head down and soak up anything you can. You learn something new every day, there's not always one way to do things. Basically true culinary work ethic.

What is your best memory from SCC Culinary?

Chef O’Neill pushing me to compete in the VICA Culinary Arts tournament as a scared 18 year old.

What is your favorite dish/food to make?

I love braised meat, charcuterie and fresh cheese, give me a crusty loaf of bread off the stone and I’m in heaven.