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Mario AguirreWritten by:

It is hot and it is noisy but the troops don’t seem to mind, safety is important but the mission always comes first. Their leader goes around ensuring everyone is using the right tools and following instructions. Everyone understands why they are here, they all volunteered after all. For a few hours they forget about their injuries, they leave their problems at the door and they enjoy working alongside other veterans. The mission on this day is to build comradery, create something with their hands and go home with some new knowledge. I am talking about Arizona Culinary Institutes Culinary Bootcamp.

ACI’s Culinary Bootcamp is in its second year and going strong. This program is meant to assist wounded warriors, veterans and their families to heal and reintegrate by reminding them what it feels like to be part of a team again. They also learn new skills in the kitchen they can take home to their families so they can save money and eat healthier.

“This class has taught me and my wife some new skills, we cook together and our bond is much stronger” says Scott D. Clark, ret. US Army Cpt. Clark is a regular at these Culinary Bootcamp classes and has been attending them for many years.

This program was created by the Army Wounded Warrior Program and when they asked ACI to be the host, Chef Christopher Wolf, Executive Chef at ACI, jumped at the opportunity. Wolf was critical in collaborating with other organizations to make this possible; one of those organizations is Honor House. Their mission is to provide transitioning assistance and utilize resources from the community.

Beckett Aguirre is the Veteran Transition Specialist for Honor House and a veteran of the Gulf War. “This program is important because it applies to everyday life and builds confidence.” Aguirre says. Adelita Aguirre is a family member and Beckett’s spouse, she says “this class uses practical application and makes things so much easier, veterans can relate”

ACI is a major supporter of the veteran population and is a Veteran Supportive Campus, a tittle given by the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. In order to claim this title, Arizona Schools have to not only fill out an application but prove to be more than just veteran friendly. ACI along with other Veteran Supportive Campuses here in AZ have to commit to annual veteran culture training, provide a veteran center or space where veterans can get assistance among other things. ACI continues to push the boundaries of being a VSC by ensuring all of their staff members have an understanding of veteran culture so that they can not only support programs like this but to better assist their schools veteran population.

“This program gives us continued appreciation of the veteran community, as we learn more, hear more stories and try our best to understand the needs of our veteran students.” Wolf says.

This program may not be your typical veterans program, there are no rules or stipulations, just have fun, oh and did I mention it is at no cost to the veterans and family members! The people that come to this program usually return for a second class, but weather it is your fist time or a regular, everyone seems to leave with a smile and a plate of whatever they created that day.

Famous Chef Alan D. Wolfelt once described making food as being symbolic of love when words are inadequate. This could not be truer for a group of individuals who value strength but struggle with finding the words to ask for help. This program allows veterans to come together and discover what they value, build stronger relationships with their family and get the help they need without having to say much. Everyone that attends the Culinary Bootcamp is on equal ground and can take pride in being part of this unique program. For this moment in time veterans can come together, learn, create something new and leave with memories that will help with the healing process.

For more questions about this program or if you would like to be a part of it contact the Arizona Culinary Institute staff at [email protected] call 1-866-294-2433. For more information and enrolment questions visit http://azculinary.edu/

You can also contact Honor House at 602-604-6622 or visit them at www.thehonorhouse.org

 

Veterans and their spouses work together to tray up some focaccia dough before it goes in the oven at the Culinary Bootcamp on April, 28th 2018.

 

Some of the veterans and family members pose with Chef Chris Wolf after learning the importance nutritional value of eggs, how to properly store them and 8 different ways to cook them at the March Culinary Bootcamp.