We're chatting this week with the chefs of SmartKitchen, an online culinary school based out of Scottsdale. Chefs Eric O'Neill and Perry Herst will be explaining how they got involved with the unique culinary concept and later this week we'll share their recipes for Perfect Turkey and Andouille Sausage Stuffing.
Like father like son
As a child, Eric remembers discovering the value of gourmet food when trading lunches in the schoolyard. He has been cooking since the age of five and credits his long history with the culinary arts to his mentor and father, an Arizona Hall of Fame chef who worked around the world before settling here in the Valley. Dominic O'Neill currently holds the title of Exective Chef at the Scottsdale Community College Culinary Arts Program and was Program Director for 10 years.
"...He is the talent on SmartKitchen, he is the hands teaching the user," O'Neill says.
Eric graduated from culinary school in 2005 and by the age of 20 had started his own catering business called Renegade Chefs. By that time, his father has developed a new technology called Sous Chef, a teaching-aid geared toward professionally trained chef. The successful program is still used today in thousands of commercial kitchens and even on Air Force One. But Eric saw a different potential:
"Dad, it ought to be on the Internet."
When did you launch online?
We launched officially on October 15th of this year. It's new to the public but we've been around for a while building out the content. We had it open, but we weren't really talking about it.
How has it been going so far?
Very well. The feedback is very positive. A lot of people are saying they didn't know there was so much to learn. We have an Ask a Chef feature and at any point in time students can ask questions and we get back to them within a few hours. We've gotten questions from a chef cooking a dinner for 1,000 people asking how to best stage everything.
What are some of the most popular things people want to learn when they start the program?
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Anecdotally, the most people are talking about is knife skills. People are watching TV and wondering,"How can I do that?" We break it down in very slow motion exactly how to do it. We had a guy write in and say he saved 25% percent on his prep time. People are always saying they don't have the time to cook.
Tomorrow we'll have more from Eric and Perry including the most gratifying part of teaching others how to cook.