Kristi Tutt had nearly solidified her status as a Colorado resident when she faced a final test. She had to navigate from Shreveport, La., to Denver through a snowstorm – in a rental car.
“I went home to Shreveport for Christmas a few years ago and storms shut down the Dallas airport,” said Tutt (2010 BACH AGR). “Lubbock, Texas, had a snowstorm, and I only had a rental car. The first flight I could get out was the next Thursday. I got really used to driving in icy conditions.”
The work environment in Colorado Springs is climate controlled. Tutt, whose degree is in nutrition science, is an assistant chef and director of the Kids Program at The French Kitchen, a four-prong facility that serves as a cooking school, a kitchen boutique, a café, and a French bakery. The business started with owner Blandine Brutel, who moved to Colorado Springs from France in 2008, operating The French Kitchen out of her home. Brutel later expanded the operation into a commercial space. Tutt’s responsibilities also evolved over time. “It was going to be a part-time position teaching kids’ classes,” Tutt said. “But I have been able to see the business side of things.”
Tutt’s main duties include employee management, marketing, and coordinating kids’ classes for a variety of age levels. The youngest group is age five to eight years old. The next group is nine to twelve, and teens are twelve to sixteen. The common denominator among all three is making sure basic ingredients are used and all the kids have a plan. For the youngest group, Tutt does a lot of prep work in advance, and the lessons are condensed. The teens are given more space to do their own prep. “Most of our recipes are tested before we teach it,” Tutt said. “We don’t use exotic ingredients because we don’t want to do anything that a customer can’t do at home.”
Her journey from undergraduate student at LSU to Colorado chef took shape during Tutt’s senior year. She attended the annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The 2009 event was in Denver, and Tutt later received a partial scholarship to become part of the Art Institute of Colorado’s culinary program. “Many of my friends (from LSU) are nurses or dieticians,” Tutt said. “There are a lot of communication skills people pick up quickly. My goal was to become a good manager.”
Coordinating classes and interacting with customers in Colorado Springs include Tutt’s efforts to educate the cadets in the U.S. Air Force Academy. For cadets who have operated under a regimented schedule at the academy, The French Kitchen serves up cooking classes. “I get to teach fifteen cadets cooking skills twice a month,” Tutt said. “Schools are losing some of their home ec programs. I love that (cadet class) program. It gets them out of the academy to have a little fun. We also do classes for military couples and families twice a year.”
There are roughly sixty-five various classes taught at The French Kitchen in class sizes of six to twelve students. Tutt’s own transition to being a teacher has included having to tailor her methods based on whether the audience is full of adults or kids. Sometimes, students will add the wrong ingredient or add the correct ingredient at the wrong time. “If kids mess up, they usually mix up something like powdered sugar and regular sugar,” Tutt said. “The adults are more set in their ways, so I need to explain things to them, too.”