Interview with Darren Leite, President and Co-Founder of Arizona Culinary Institute

Interview with Darren Leite, President and Co-Founder of Arizona Culinary Institute

Interviewed by Staff

Where does the restaurant industry stand in today's economy?

It's now one of the largest economic and employment areas of the service and the US economy in general. It continues to grow rapidly as Americans tend to have more disposable income and less time to shop and prepare food at home.

What does the near to distant future look like for the restaurant industry?

All surveys and economic predictions, both private and government, indicate continued rapid growth for the Industry.

How, if at all, will technology affect the functional make-up of the restaurant industry? Does technology pose a threat to or compromise the demand of human resources within the industry.

I feel that in high volume / low cost outlets technology will have greater impact, though I wouldn't characterize that as threat to anyone. In the mid to hi-end sector, I believe that there will never be a substitute for a creative, experienced and well trained human.

What are the primary distinctions between a restaurant program/school and a general culinary program/school? What do you think is the ratio of restaurant programs/schools to culinary programs/schools?

I'm not sure about the ratio. We at ACI feel very strongly that graduates should understand ALL areas up to a certain level. That's why we only offer a full Diploma in Culinary Arts, Baking and Restaurant Management. We feel that overly specialized programs are a mistake. Kitchens do not operate in a vacuum, but are always an integral part of a larger entity such as a Restaurant, Hotel, Bar, etc.

What types of financial aid are available for culinary/restaurant students?

Loans, grants, scholarships and paid Internships (at some schools)

What cities in the U.S. and/or world have the most restaurant activity? The most diverse?

New York, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco are my favorites.

What are the most popular restaurant genres in the U.S. and/or world?

There are just too many and too much hybridization to generalize.

What are the most notable culinary/restaurant trends in the industry today (restaurant themes, food styles, etc.)?

There's no one trend that's dominating. However, Pacific Rim/Fusion seems to have really carved out a permanent niche in the past 5-10 years.

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