CAC culinary arts alum Aaron Encinas returns as head chef of CAC’s dining operations
By Guy Harrison, Media & Marketing Specialist
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - The phrase, "Beginning every day from scratch," is embroidered on the left sleeve of Aaron Encinas's Central Arizona College chef jacket. When he explains his vision as head chef of CAC's dining operations under the umbrella of its new partner, A'viands, one gets the sense that the aforementioned phrase will serve as the inspiration for the entire operation and isn't just another marketing catchphrase.
"Everything we make will be made from scratch," Encinas says, using hand-pressed burgers available at CAC's dining locations as an example. "We'll use more flavor compounds and give our customers a fresh, quality product."
If Encinas sounds like a seasoned chef, it's because he has enjoyed an accomplished culinary career, the foundation for which was laid at CAC.
"The culinary arts program at CAC definitely prepares you," Encinas says. "Everything I learned, I still use on a regular basis: knife skills, kitchen etiquette. It opens your eyes and is a good icebreaker for anybody entering the field."
Upon completing his education at CAC, Encinas enrolled at Northern Arizona University located at CAC's Signal Peak Campus. From there, he dove head-first into a career in culinary arts, taking up apprenticeships with the American Culinary Federation and the Radisson chain of hotels.
The Casa Grande native never strayed too far from his hometown, however, becoming head chef at Creative Café on Trekell Road, all while serving as a youth football coach and line coach for Casa Grande Union High School's junior varsity football team for the last 10 years.
"None of this would have happened without CAC. It shows that even from a two-year school, you can make big things happen."
So what do the college's students, faculty and staff have to look forward to from CAC's various dining options? In addition to fresh ingredients and artfully blended flavors, Encinas has introduced new options, such as a burrito bar to the dining hall at the Signal Peak Campus, and is in the process of gathering feedback from customers so that he and his staff can mold a menu that features options that patrons enjoy most.
All of this points to the pride Encinas takes in his work, pride that he literally wears on his sleeve.
"I'll be hands on, I won't just be sitting in the office. If I'm going to be the face of something, I want it to be good."