Monday, December 22, 2008

Chef George Tucker Celebrates 51 Years In Industry

Chef George Tucker, culinary arts instructor at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, 51-year veteran in the culinary industry, and owner of Extraordinary Sculptures, with a swan he carved from butter. Photo by Carl Dameron

Chef George Tucker, who has worked in the culinary industry for 51 years, with some of the food his Gard Manager students prepared for a Grand Buffet held Tuesday, Dec. 16 at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. Photo by Carl Dameron

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) Chef George Tucker of Highland has worked as a professional chef since December, 1957 when he became an apprentice chef at La Paloma Mexican Restaurant, which was on University Avenue in downtown Riverside.

Since then, Tucker has worked throughout the Inland Empire at some of its finest restaurants, hotels, country clubs, casinos, a hospital and most recently, as a culinary instructor at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire.

For much of the last 25 years he has worked as an executive chef, holding this position at Sobaba Casino in San Jacinto, Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Castaway Restaurant and the Radisson Hotel, both in San Bernardino, T.B Scott’s Seafood Landing in Corona, Branihan’s Restaurant in Pomona and Crushed Grape Restaurant in West Covina. He also owns the company “Extraordinary Sculpturing,” which creates sculptures from ice, vegetables and other foods.

Today, a chef needs much more education than he or she can receive on-the-job says Chef Tucker.

“I started out as a dishwasher, and worked my way up,” Chef Tucker said. “Six months after I started my job I signed on as an apprentice chef, and when the head chef at La Paloma left a year later, I got the job.”

“There is a lot more that culinary students need to know today,” he said. “For one thing, everything is computerized. If you need to know something, you look it up on the computer and it’s right there.”

Computer skills aren’t the only thing chefs need to know before coming to their first job says Chef Tucker. They also need to know how to find and prepare the many more types of food that are available, now that technology allows a chef to order food from anywhere in the world.

“In the past, some foods were only available seasonally and some not at all in the United States,” he said. “Now, it may cost more, but you can get anything that’s available anywhere, and at any time.”

For most of 2008, Chef Tucker has done his part to pass on the vast knowledge a modern chef needs before starting a career by working as an instructor at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. There he teaches Product Identification, American Regional Cooking, Latin Cooking and Gard Manager.

The Gard Manager course, which is French for “Cold Kitchen,” is an advanced course that focuses on food served cold. Sometimes these foods are cooked first, but then must be chilled before serving.

Chef Tucker hosted a Grand Buffet on December 16, which offered appetizers from different regions of the world.

The students were given an opportunity to display for the public what they have learned. Both the students and Chef Tucker were excited with the response. Two classes will be offered in the Gard Manager course next quarter.

Chef Eyad Joseph, academic director of culinary programs at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, was happy with the Grand Buffet event. “I think it did much better then we expected,” he said.

“We always encourage students to see the final picture” said Joseph. “The students were amazed that everything came together and was completed successfully.”

Chef Tucker has been a member of the American Culinary Federation since 1971, and this organization named him a certified executive chef in 1990. He is also a member of Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, which is the world’s largest and oldest culinary association.

He is a former Chef of the Year for the Southern California Inland Empire Chefs & Cooks Association, which is a chapter of the American Culinary Federation, and has won numerous regional and national awards for culinary arts and ice carving.

He is the past Chairman and Culinary Director of the Cooks Apprenticeship program for the Southern California Inland Empire Chefs & Cooks Association. His own training has been with chefs throughout the world, including France, Poland, Hungary, Spain and the Netherlands.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Culinary Management, Web Design & Interactive Media, Fashion & Retail Management, Interior Design, Media Arts & Animation; A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design and Associate of Science degrees in Graphic Design and Culinary Arts.

It’s not too late to start the new year at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. Courses begin Jan. 12 and classes are offered in the day, evening and on weekends for new and reentry students.

For more information, or to arrange a tour, call The Art Institute at (909) 915-2100.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire is one of the Art Institutes (, a system of more than 40 locations throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals. For more information, call (909) 915-2100 or go on line to