We interviewed Chef Erickson from the documentary True Beef: From Pasture to Plate. If you want to learn more about ag careers play My Little Ag Me!
1. What is your job?
My job is to inspire young people as a culinary arts teacher. I wake up every day trying to make a difference in a child’s life and try to get them excited about learning and understanding the future of the world that they live in through the food they eat, cook, and enjoy.
2.What do you get to do day to day in your job?
Day to day I teach all the fundamentals of cooking and working in the restaurant industry. We explore cooking methods, food, and the relationship chefs have with the farmers and ranchers.
One of the biggest perks is every day is different and we get to explore many different flavor profiles and cuisines, or as we like to say COME EAT OUR HOMEWORK!
3.What different skills do you need to be successful?
The foundation of being a culinary teacher and chef is having culinary skills from knife skills, to product knowledge, to cooking methods. As a teacher, communication skills and organizational skills become very important to help inspire students to take ownership of their learning, goals, and dreams.
4.What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is seeing and tasting what my students create with the bounty of agriculture. And not to seem biased, but TRUE BEEF week where we cook steaks, make sausage, and practice our BBQ skills makes waking up every morning very easy!
5.What kind of classes should students take if they are interested in your field?
Many schools today have culinary arts or family and consumers sciences, foods, or food science classes as part of the Career and Technical Education Department.
6.How does your career connect to agriculture?
Chefs are the last line in the food chain. We are the lucky folks that get to take the amazing foods raised as part of agriculture and turn it into a delicious meal. I try to impress upon my students that without ranchers and farmers we would not eat or have jobs in foodservice. I thank farmers and ranchers every day for allowing me to teach about food and cooking!
7.Why should students learn about agriculture?
Not to seem cliché, but students must understand agriculture because it is the foundation of life; without food it is pretty tough to accomplish anything else or have a healthy society.
8.When you were younger and someone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, what did you say? And would younger you be happy with where you ended up?
When I was younger I wanted to be a professional soccer player and to own a restaurant. I think my younger self would be very happy how my life turned out. Sometimes God gives us a gift and we can never really realize how far it can take us until we do our part. I get to go all over the country learning about food, including Disney World and speaking at the National FFA Convention and National Cattleman's Beef Convention. I have been very blessed.
About Chef Mike Erickson
Mike is a high school culinary arts teacher and founder of the State of Texas High School BBQ Cook Off. Chef Erickson’s goal is to inspire young people to respect and learn about the agriculture industry through food. Mike is a Masters of Beef Advocate and was a member of the 1st Top of The Class program by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales University.
True Beef Lesson Plans and film
True Beef – film trailer
State of Texas High School BBQ Cook Off
Facebook page for Texas High School BBQ Cook Off