Throughout Black History Month, Austin Community College District (ACC) asks influential and accomplished faculty, staff, and students to discuss what Black History Month means to them.
Chef Bryant Currie is an associate professor in ACC's Culinary Arts program. He started as an adjunct in 2016 and was subsequently hired as a full-time instructor in 2019.
I decided to work at ACC because I believe in the mission of educating each student who desires to further their education and to improve their life with new skills and talent. ACC affords anyone the opportunity they may need to reach their ultimate potential and capabilities.
I believe it is important for any institution that educates and encourages students to be the best they can be, and to also educate those same students on the importance of the black experience in this country and in this culture.
Celebrating and embracing Black History at this institution sends a clear and concise message that the Black American experience is vibrant and essential to its growth and purpose in the world. Black Americans have been vital to the origin and creation of this country from the very beginning. Although that beginning was wrought with bigotry and hatred, the contributions of those same battered people are indisputable and unarguable. Celebration and observance of Black History cement this institution's goal of educating every person regardless of that person's societal disposition, but rather positions that person to be a better citizen and better student who recognizes the importance of all people in our society – regardless of race.
One of the proudest personal moments I can think of was graduating from Johnson & Wales University, with honors, and given the opportunity to deliver the commencement speech at the graduate school commencement ceremony. My mom was in the audience. I mentioned her in my speech, and she was extremely excited and elated. As the first person in my family to graduate from college, being able to have my mother see me give the commencement speech was the greatest moment in my life. Second only to the birth of my first and only child.
One of the highlights in my professional life was the opportunity I had to spend a month in Lyon, France. After being selected out of 15,000 culinary students to represent the university, I flew to France and interned at Restaurant Paul Bocuse and several other restaurants affiliated with him and Mumm Champagne. I traveled through the French countryside cooking for various dignitaries, but the best part of this journey was working at Restaurant Paul Bocuse and learning true French classical cuisine from one of the greatest chefs ever to cook. He took me through a cooking rotation of his kitchen, and I had the opportunity to sit and speak with him about food and French cuisine. It was a definite highlight of my career that I will never forget and will always cherish.
The best lesson I have learned in my professional life is to never underestimate the impact of your service and hard work.
The journey of life is packed with obstacles that could derail even the strongest of personalities. But, if you give this journey the best you have to offer, never underestimate the benefit of those trials and tribulations to others. There were many times when I would work extremely hard to be great and always thought that those efforts were not sufficient. Only to find out that the customers whom I served thought the final product to be great and skillful. There were recipes that I developed and thought that the final product was not acceptable, only to find out that the very customers I was serving found my product superior and outstanding. So, the lesson here is to never discount hard work and efforts when the customer has yet to judge them.
In my line of business, it is critical to seek and value diversity because your career could depend on it.
The world is defined by culture, and culture is evident through food and cuisine. As a chef, it is impossible to find greatness if you cannot value the diversity in food and cuisine. But, also finding the value in diverse cooks and chefs plays a major role in that development. Food tends to build cultural bridges, and as consumers of this cultural stew, we must become aware of how this diverse mixing pot comes about and is celebrated in our cultures. Successful chefs seek and value diversity every day in their careers, and they find absolute perfection in that exploration.
Personally, I build bridges in other communities by first seeking to understand before being understood. I want to learn as much as I can about other cultures, societies, and of course, their needs. Building a bridge must begin with understanding and learning all that you can about their needs and desires. We make great mistakes by forcing our belief system onto others before first understanding their belief system and listening to their desires and needs. Cultural bridge-building begins with an education of understanding, not an edification of being understood.
The thing that inspires me the most is knowing that I am helping to produce the next generation of culinarians who will set out to provide quality food and services for the masses. A customer's reaction to a product created by me as a chef is inspiration for a lifetime. The reaction of success is very gratifying to a chef, and I draw my inspiration from those reactions every day. In the end, my ability to pass that feeling of encouragement and creativity to the next generation is awe-inspiring.