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Tiara Guard, March 2016 Student of the Month

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Tiara Guard headshotName: Tiara Guard
Hometown: Kingwood, Texas
Current city: Kingwood, Texas
Course of study: Assoc. Degree Culinary Arts ‐ Chef de Cuisine
Year of graduation: October 2016
TCA Houston Board Member –Student Advisor

I understand now how important the classroom education is. The chefs, during labs, not only teach how to properly execute a dish, they take the time to explain what could go wrong. They allow mistakes to happen in a learning environment, BEFORE we must venture into the world, and into the industry.

Poached pear dishNetworking doesn’t come easy to all, but today we are bringing you a Student, Executive Chef and Texas Chef Association Member that will make it easy to relate to.

As a student at CIL, Tiara says, “I love that we change Chefs each term. One thing I have learned over years of interning from surrounding Houston Chefs is that every chef does it differently. You can ALWAYS take something away from your mentor, whether it be small or life changing.” She tells us that her advice to anyone thinking about coming to CIL is “Stop just THINKING about it. Get your hands dirty! There is no better time to start than today!”.

Tiaras culinary journey didn’t begin at culinary school. She’s had prior experience in all aspects of a restaurant before becoming an Executive Chef. At the age of 14, Tiara tells us she tried to work in the kitchen – but hated cooking, therefore, chose to work Front of House instead. Eventually, she moved up to General Manager by the age of 20. “The relationships I had built with my clientele gave me special insight to their wants and needs. I focused on what I could change…service, specials, wine, etc., but when it came to the needs regarding the kitchen, I was at a loss. I knew, at that point, I had to try my hand again in the Back of the House. I wanted my guests to know, I listened. I spent years training from the lowliest of positions (the dishwasher), to others such as Garde Manager, Saucier, Prep Cook, Line Cook, Sous Chef and eventually because the Executive Chef”.

Fillet MignonThrough everyone’s journey, there’s usually an inspiration to keep the drive going. Tiaras’ parents built a restaurant in Kingwood, Texas about 20 years ago, however, this isn’t where her inspiration to become a Chef came from.

“My greatest struggle has been competition. Not competition from other restaurants, although that is ever present, but the competition from other chefs. You see, my younger brother is also an Executive Chef, and quite a successful one, running one of the top three gastro pubs in New York. For years, I felt compelled to compete with him. And when I failed, I would spend so much agonized time beating myself up over it. One day, when I was particularly hard on myself, he turned and asked me what my obsession was? He said..”don’t you understand? We cannot compete with each other. We are on two totally different spectrums. You and I don’t even cook the same TYPE of food, much less use the same techniques or finish with the same style.” It was then that I realized… as a chef, the only competition you have is yourself. We are all different. Some cook like chemists, others like painters. You must focus only on bettering yourself. At the end of the day, if you are proud of what you’ve accomplished and satisfied with what you have created, then you are truly a success.

Beef rollTiara tells us her culinary education began by going straight into the kitchen. Being that she started at 14 years of age, with so much experience, one would ask why attend culinary school? So we did. “I never attended classes, but I read every book I could get my hands on. I practically slept with On Cooking under my pillow. I saw so many failed recipes and had to learn the hard way. I understand now how important the classroom education is. The chefs, during labs, not only teach how to properly execute a dish, they take the time to explain what could go wrong. They allow mistakes to happen in a learning environment, BEFORE we must venture into the world, and into the industry. I was taught ‘Anyone can cook…only a real chef knows how to correct a mistake before it arrives to the guest.’ I chose CIL because it is French. I specialize in Fine Dining American Cuisine, but techniques and skills were originally perfected in France. Coming here reminds me to stay true to the roots of culinary creation.”

Strawberry shortcakeAside from being driven, she is also an inspiration as she wants to help others within the profession. As a chef and a student, we believe that others can find it easy to relate and talk to her which is a great quality in our Student of the Month. “I have known about American Chefs Federation and Texas Chefs Association my entire culinary career, but thought, as an Executive Chef, what could it really offer ME? I met Chef Adam Heath, the director of TCA Houston during a membership drive hosted by CIL. He reminded me that in order to truly be a master of your trade, you selflessly give back. I joined that day, not long after, I was asked to serve on the Board as Student Adviser. I couldn’t imagine a better way to give back. I was able to relate to the students in ways other chefs couldn’t..because I am one.”

American Culinary Federation logoWe encourage everyone to join an organization of like minded people in order to keep your vision going. This gives you an opportunity to network or possibly have access to learn new things. What better way get a feel for what it’s like than having someone as Tiara give her perspective as a member. “Being involved with TCA gives me access to Chef-Only mixers and socials, educational seminars and competitions. When I was first starting out, I would have really benefited from becoming a part of this group – there are so many Houston area chefs that take the time to attend meetings, create roles in the industry, become mentors, etc. I encourage all students to join. Get a taste of whats out there. Rub elbows with some of the chefs already in the industry. These men and women are the forefront leaders that can help you along your journey as you leave school. Not to mention, being a member of the TCA looks great on scholarship applications and resumes. The more involved you are, the more solid you prove your dedication.”

Tiara Guard, Student, Executive Chef, Texas Chef Association Member, Student of the Month.