Top of the Class: A Tribute to Glenn Humphrey
You may not have ever met Glenn Humphrey in person. In fact, you may not have even heard of him. But I guarantee that if you have dined in any of this town’s finer restaurants, you’ve been the lucky beneficiary of this man’s influence and talent.
Sadly, Chef Humphrey died in early March. His death is a loss for all of us who knew and admired and loved him. Most certainly, Chef ’s death is a loss to future student chefs who would have been blessed with this man’s talent for teaching and mentoring.
I first met Glenn when I taught at Scottsdale Culinary Institute many years ago. Tall, handsome and gentle in his demeanor, he was a favorite among the students and the faculty.
Elizabeth Leite, founder and former owner of Scottsdale Culinary Institute, has this to say about Glenn: “We’ve lost a great chef and a truly great teacher with Glenn’s passing. Glenn taught Basics, the first part of the two year curriculum at Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He taught the brand new students, those new students in their brand new sparkling whites with the ‘deer in the headlight’ expressions. He was the ideal instructor for our newest students.
“Glenn was the epitome of what I expected a chef instructor to be: extremely knowledgeable and professional in his appearance. He always showed respect to his students and never spoke down to them. The students always came first with Glenn.
“One of my fondest memories harkens back to the summer of 1996. The school was closed for its normal two-week break and students and instructors were all on vacation. The office was still open. It was early afternoon and I was returning from a meeting, parking my car. A Harley pulled up alongside of me and this dude got off and my thoughts were, ‘Hmm, who could he be visiting in the office?’
“With that, the dude said, ‘Hi, Elizabeth, gotta get ready for our new students.’ It was Glenn. I had no idea he rode a Harley, wore leathers, wore long earrings, didn’t shave and had a do-rag under his helmet. I only knew Glenn in starched white chef coats, tall chef hat and white neckerchief. Over time we joked often about that afternoon.
“I know Glenn will be missed by everyone who knew him.”
Chef Humphrey, a Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator, was an active member of the Chefs Association of Arizona and was designated Chef of the Year by the Resort and Country Club Chefs Association. His last job was as a chef-instructor and placement director for Arizona Culinary Institute, where he worked for the last 14 years.
Humphrey earned several awards (Chef of the Year, Educator of the Year); the latest being the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon him posthumously at the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame event just this April.
An accomplished chef in his own right, teaching and mentoring future chefs became his passion. As a lead judge for the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) competitions, he spent much of his own free time coaching the students.
Chef Humphrey was not only a mentor to students but to professionals as well.
C-CAP Arizona Director Jill Smith says, “He was my mentor when I got the job at C-CAP right out of culinary school. He was always available to the students, allowing them to use the kitchen at Arizona Culinary Institute when he was working with them prior to competitions. He did all of this on his own time as a volunteer. I don’t know how we will replace him. It will probably take several different people to do everything he did for us.”
Barb Fenzl, owner of Les Gourmettes Cooking School, worked with Chef Humphrey as a C-CAP judge. “He had so many ideas about how to improve the program and was so dedicated to the students that I was moved to offer scholarships for the school.”
A lot of people are willing to offer advice but Glenn was the person whose advice you’d be smart to follow. Heidi Lee, founder and CEO of Grey Tie Events, sought Glenn’s advice often. In her eulogy at Chef Humphrey’s memorial service she said, “He was a walking, talking culinary encyclopedia that I called upon for answers to many questions. He could translate the most complex language of the kitchen in a way that even the most novice cook could understand. It’s just one of the reasons why his students loved and respected him. He was an accessible genius.”
Even though my Scottsdale Culinary Institute days were many years ago, whenever I needed a quote for an article, Glenn was always available and willing. And his quotes were always right on the money, exactly what I was looking for.
Many of Glenn’s students stayed in touch with him long after they graduated culinary school. Chef Silvana Salcido, chef/owner of Barrio Cafe, was one of them: “For the last 20 years since graduating from culinary school, Chef Humphrey gave me advice whenever I needed it. The guy just kept giving up to the very end and with such class.”
“Class.” Read the comment section on any of the articles written about Glenn since his death and you’ll see that word used over and over to describe him.
He was a man of honor, wisdom, knowledge and patience. He was a friend and mentor to many. He was a classy guy and he is missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
Sharon Salomon, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, freelance writer and dedicated eater who hopes that someday she can meet the challenge of balancing all the calories she consumes in the interest of research with enough exercise to keep her weight stable. She can be reached at email@example.com.