Veterans are no strangers to the terms ‘Veteran Friendly,’ or ‘Veteran Supportive.’ While navigating the landscape of higher education following their service time, Veterans are sometimes left wondering what those terms represent because they may end up with instructors who are completely inattentive to their unique circumstances. For Arizona Culinary Institute’s (ACI) Executive Chef, Christopher Wolf, the reality of being abstracted from Student Veterans’ needs came to light when he least expected it. And when faced with a Student Veteran who voiced that he felt let down and was leaving the program, Chris was at a crossroads to carry on with business as usual, or to make changes to prevent a repeat event.
Coming from his own humble beginnings, Chris Wolf found his start in the culinary world as a dishwasher at a restaurant local to him in his native state of Pennsylvania. After spending his time in high school learning how to bus tables and prepping, Chris attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York where he found his love for fine dining. Following his graduation, he held a series of gigs up and down the East Coast and eventually found himself in the Southwest working in Las Vegas to help with the opening of the Wynn Hotel in 2005. A year later, Chris made his way down to Arizona and was looking to change things up by becoming an instructor. His search led him to the Arizona Culinary Institute and has been with them for the last 10 years.
It was in 2013 that Chris was promoted to Executive Chef, the same year he had his wakeup call with the Student Veteran who was struggling in ACI’s program. After a series of confrontations with ACI’s instructors, Chris decided to have a one-on-one conversation with the Student Veteran to find out what was going on. What he had discovered was that the Student Veteran was having transitional difficulties because of what he experienced during his service time. Coupled with instructors who had no training on how to support Student Veterans, it was inevitable that clashes would occur and the school would lose that student, or more if no action was taken.
Being a man of progress and solutions, Chris began researching Student Veteran support services and eventually discovered the Arizona Department of Veteran Services (AZDVS), “Veteran Supportive Campus” program. He immediately contacted AZDVS and connected with Steven Weintraub to get the ball rolling for ACI to meet the criteria for becoming a Veteran Supportive Campus. Wasting no time, Chris got everything aligned for the accreditation in a month’s time and ACI received their plaque from AZDVS in the same year.
Three years have passed and Chris is still working hard to ensure The Arizona Culinary Institute is providing an excellent experience to Student Veterans. His staff receives training from the Arizona Coalition for Military Families twice a year and has opened the school’s facilities to host the Culinary Boot Camp for Wounded Veterans and their family members. Veterans who are interested in attending the Arizona Culinary Institute can expect a welcoming atmosphere and an unwavering support structure that sets them up for success. With class sizes that do not exceed 20 students and instructors who are regularly trained on the latest in Veterans’ issues, they truly embody what it means to be Veteran Supportive.
To learn more about ACI and the organizations who helped them with their mission you can follow these links: