An Interview With Chef Ivan Flowers About His New Culinary Instructor Position At Kitchens For Good

January 31, 2016

Ivan Flowers, an extremely talented chef with over 25 years of experience in fine cuisine, is embarking upon a new venture that will enable him to pass along his knowledge to at-risk youths and young adults. After leaving his former-position as Executive Chef at Top of the Market and in spite of receiving plenty of offers for employment, Chef Flowers decided that it was time to give back, so he took the position of culinary instructor at San Diego based Kitchens For Good, a nonprofit whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty, food waste and hunger through workforce training, healthy food and social enterprise. We recently sat down with Chef Ivan to discuss his new role and what inspired him to move from the professional kitchen to the culinary classroom.

The Harley-riding Ivan Flowers inherited his love for cooking from his father, who was also a chef and restaurant owner. Flowers is a passionate culinary teacher who thrives on passing along his skill-set through education. From 2001 to 2007, Flowers served as Executive Chef at Different Pointe of View in Phoenix, where his distinct menu earned praise from food critics around the world. Here, Flowers' "teaching kitchen" became regarded as one of the most coveted places for up-and-coming chefs to develop their skills and discover their own style. Prior to this role, Flowers was the lead instructor and chef of L'Ecole restaurant at the highly-respected Le Cordon Bleu SCI Culinary Institute in Scottsdale. As chef and instructor, Flowers was responsible for educating a class of 30 students in classical French cuisine.

What is your inspiration? It is time to give back. Thirty years in the industry allows me to mentor, coach, assist and truly help students that were not given such assistance in the past. The goal is to show what an incredible passionate and creative environment the culinary field is. Teaching technique paired with what's in their hearts will get them to a happy productive place in their lives.

Have you worked in a similar capacity before? I was a culinary instructor for Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale for a year in 1999. I have always run kitchens in the industry as teaching kitchens where cooks were able to learn technique, create and work in a truly passionate kitchen. The goal was to help them all develop what lies within their own hearts and develop their style of cuisine.

What motivated you to take this direction? As a chef I saw many students coming out of culinary schools lacking technique. Technique is the base of it all, and then on that foundation you eventually build the house that becomes YOUR own unique, one-of-a-kind design. I want to give solid, true industry experience that allows these homes to be built with a solid foundation that will support their unique creative visions.

How is your new position different from an executive chef role in a high-end restaurant/your prior experience? The only way one will ever learn cooking is by making mistakes, burning foods, over cooking, etc.  A class room/kitchen allows a laboratory without having to worry about mistakes in the beginning until we progress in the program and most of the mistakes now become victories. This program will give students a license to drive. Once in the industry I hope to have some of the finest drivers on the culinary racetrack.

Where will your mentees/students go upon graduation from this program? We have internship programs followed by placements within the industry. Students will go into a variety of positions within the industry. We focus on the fact that hard work, study, exposure and positive mental attitude will eventually offer them chef positions within the field. Everything is possible.

How do you envision that society bettered by this program? Giving students a chance to develop their talents, to become creative professionals leading to independence and happiness is something that allows one's heart to smile and the students' hearts to soar. They in turn will now give back to others (pay it forward) knowing that once again "everything is possible". Also, through this program, we are able to give individuals a second chance at becoming productive members of society. It is a program that embraces the idea that EVERYONE has value and talent, they simply need a little help finding their way... 

While at Kitchens For Good, Chef Ivan will be teaching struggling individuals a culinary program, taking them on field trips and helping them improve their lives through earning a culinary education. Graduates will receive a technical culinary education, industry certification and job placement services. Kitchens For Good fund much of their program through catering, and produce many dishes using food that would have been discarded or wasted - think ugly carrots, misshapen apples, etc. Their Project Nourish partners with Feeding America San Diego to create 21,000 nutritious packaged meals to be distributed through a mobile pantry program.

Learn more about Kitchens For Good and make a donation at