Kelly LeSueur, Arizona Culinary Institute’s July 2015 Student of the Month was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, and this fearless culinary student began her journey in the culinary arts with a “trial by fire” job as a breakfast cook at Lux Central in the city, a rustic café and bakery serving an eclectic, ever-changing menu plus coffee, wine, beer and cocktails.
“I had no kitchen experience, but they took a chance on me and were willing to mold me,” laughs a very understated LeSueur. “I’d show up at five in the morning and create a seven-item self-service breakfast menu and it was an awesome experience.”
LeSueur next journeyed to Flagstaff, AZ where she considered attending school, but instead ended up working at The Toasted Owl Café.
“It was such a great opportunity and I had a hand in designing a new menu, which included a weekend brunch with Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas,” explains LeSueur. “The experience definitely sparked my imagination, and I then decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
LeSueur first toured one of Arizona Culinary Institute’s competitors, but after she toured ACI, her decision was made and she immediately enrolled in a Night Program.
“I love it here, and ACI feels like a family,” notes LeSueur. “I have made so many personal connections with my instructors and fellow students, and while it’s competitive, you also learn to work as a unit in order to get things done.”
A Pescatarian, LeSueur loves making Seared Halibut and she envisions herself one day owning her own farm-to-table fresh restaurant specializing in seafood on the Northern coast of Oregon.
“I’ve come a long way since the first time that I filleted a fish and it looked like it was run over by a lawnmower,” smiles LeSueur. “But with amazing chefs like Chef Christopher Wolf and the ‘Philippian Samurai Warrior,’ Chef Santo Villarico showing me the way, I’ve begun to master the art of preparing fish.”
LeSueur notes that cooking shows like TOP CHEF and CHOPPED give her terrible anxiety (“I can’t watch them before I go to bed,” giggles LeSueur), and yet, she also gains confidence by constantly confronting her fears, and shows like Anthony Bourdain’s PARTS UNKNOWN also inspire her to be bold.
“In my life, I’ve always found that confidence opens doors,” notes LeSueur. “Here at ACI, the instructors have your back and they give you the confidence to push on through. It’s a very rewarding feeling, and when I get home, I always want to tell everyone what I’ve done that day.”
The humble and extremely talented LeSueur vividly remembers her first day in Villarico’s class as she was at times in tears, but nervously managed to tell the famous chef: “Thanks in advance for believing in me.”
LeSueur’s future indeed looks bright, and it’s easy to see when you consider the motto she lives by as she progresses in the world of culinary arts:
“Every job is your next interview.”
The Arizona Culinary Institute’s founding principles are traditional, proven French Method cooking skills combined with the best of modern techniques. ACI prepares students for careers in Culinary Arts & Hospitality covering a broad range of areas. du Jour Restaurant is the culinary laboratory that the advanced students of the school operate as a French fine dining experience. For more information, please contact the Arizona Culinary Institute at (480) 603-1066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.