From apprentice to restaurant ownership

Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Arts Institute has a strong track record of graduating accomplished chefs who go out into the world to make their mark. The combination of affordable classroom instruction and a traditional American Culinary Federation Education Foundation apprenticeship program at Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains simply can’t be beat.

A shining example of the program’s success is chef Brian Baker, who graduated from the apprenticeship program in 2000. Baker was executive chef at Ski Tip Lodge, which earlier this year was named the No. 6 best restaurant in the country by OpenTable. In 2007, he cooked at the James Beard House, alongside five other Colorado Mountain College alumni. And he opened his own restaurant, Watershed Café in Leavenworth, Washington, this summer.

For Baker it was “pretty spectacular” to get the nod from OpenTable. “This year, being named sixth best restaurant in the country goes to show that consistency in product and a quality staff in the front and the back of the house – the majority of whom come from Colorado Mountain College’s culinary program – makes a real difference,” he says.

Baker’s philosophy at Ski Tip was to put pride, passion, education and energy into everything that they do.  And that care showed.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Chef Baker grow and mature from a culinary student with a lot of raw talent to a refined technician who has elevated his restaurant into one of the best in the nation,” said Kevin Clarke, director of culinary education, Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute. “He has always had a clear vision about the food he wants to serve his guests and he is uncompromising on his standards. He has created a path to success that many young culinarians often want to try to skip, but I feel it is a key to his success as it has allowed him to truly learn his craft.

Baker was a dedicated apprentice and a member of the student culinary team. His career took off when he  accepted a  sous chef position in one of Colorado Mountain College’s apprenticeship program’s fine-dining restaurants, where he moved into a chef de cuisine position and then quickly moved into the executive chef role. Baker continued to give back to program that helped him reach success by hosting an apprenticeship program at the Ski Tip Lodge where he pushed his apprentices to be the best that they can be every day.