Known for her unwavering student support and confidence-inspiring demeanor, Amanda Miller takes home CAFÉ’s 2020 Postsecondary of the Year award sponsored by Sysco.
By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor
United States army veteran and culinary arts instructor Amanda Miller employs a lead-by-example teaching style that instills kitchen confidence and competence into her students. She has developed such trust and respect from her students that they would follow her into battle with no questions asked, her program director said. This culinary role-model teacher earned the 2020 Sysco Postsecondary Instructor of the Year Award.
A culinary arts and baking and pastry arts instructor at the Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM), Miller is also a graduate of the program. Her unique life experiences, education and certifications make her a much sought-after instructor by the students. “She truly sets the standard when it comes to culinary as well as baking and pastry education. Many students refer to her as Wonder Woman and I couldn’t agree more,” said Tanya Duzey, baking and pastry arts recent graduate.
Miller, an ACF certified culinarian and certified pastry culinarian, is president of the ACF West Michigan Lakeshore Chapter and student chapter advisor. In 2019 Miller coached CIM’s Culinary Knowledge Bowl team to top honors at both the regional and national ACFEF conferences, earning the title of National Champions and receiving Gold Medal awards at both events. “I had the privilege of being coached by Chef Miller on the ACF competition team as well as the Culinary Knowledge Bowl team. Not a single day went by where I did not learn a new technique or recipe and was pushed to my absolute limits to be the best I could possibly be. Day in and day out, Chef Miller goes above and beyond to make sure her students are not only growing as culinarians but as people as well,” Duzey said.
While maintaining high expectations for herself and students, she is sensitive to the unique needs of CIM’s learners and sets a tone of respect and positive engagement, that also extends to the larger community.
CIM is uniquely suited for many events designed to support the community and Miller leads the school’s participation. Cheers and Chocolate, an annual event held at CIM, benefits Every Woman’s Place, a local women’s shelter that aids victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Attendees enjoy an evening of food, wine, beer and chocolate tastings. Cheers and Chocolate raises approximately $50,000 and Miller spends hours teaching students and delegating the production of over 10,000 chocolate bonbons, truffles, and pastries for the event.
Another local organization Chef Miller personally connects CIM students with is Kids Food Basket. This organization helps distribute thousands of healthy sack suppers to children living at or below poverty level in the Muskegon, Mich. area. Chef Prize is an annual event held by Kids Food Basket where guests enjoy food, pastry, wine and beer tastings from local restaurants and CIM students. Chef Prize raises approximately $80,000 to benefit Kids Food Basket.
Miller’s colleagues also appreciate her consummate professionalism and talents. “Amanda Miller is one of the most dedicated instructors I have ever had the privilege of working with. Her dedication to students both in and out of the classroom is unwavering. Every initiative Chef Miller implements is decided upon and driven by student success,” said Greg Wade, CIM faculty.
“Amanda Miller has inspired me as a student, as a cook, and as a leader in the kitchen. In culinary school she was my competitor, my inspiration, and my teacher,” said CIM graduate Bailey Glass-Cooper. “We all joke, ’What would Amanda do?’ for certain situations. As your educator of the year, you will not find another instructor who cares as much about their students.”
Miller received $1,500 in prize money and a plaque. She will be recognized at CAFÉ’s 2021 Leadership Conference to be held Portland, Maine, in June 2021.