The leader of this Arizona retirement community wins a national award

For more than a decade, Adolfo Aris Cabrera worked at The Grill at Quail Creek, a restaurant in a 55-plus retirement community in the quiet town of Green Valley, Arizona. On July 26, the executive chef is inducted into the American Academy of Chefs, an honor given to a select few chefs around the country, most of whom work in well-known restaurants in major cities.

According to the ACF, this award “represents the highest standards of professionalism in the organization, society and industry.”

Chef Cabrera's work in the community and his mentorship earned him the prize he had dreamed of for more than 20 years, induction into the American Academy of Chefs.

What is the Culinary Federation of America?

The Academy is the honor society of the American Culinary Federation, which was established in 1929 and now has 170 chapters and 14,000 members across the United States. The organization is committed to providing education, learning and networking opportunities in the culinary world.

Being a member of the American Academy of Chefs has been a dream for Cabrera for over 20 years.

“When I received my chef’s jacket for the event, I told my wife how I remember attending [the ACF convention] in 1999 as a member of a culinary team competing for the state championship,” Cabrera said. “As we were walking around during the convention, I see these award-winning chefs. They were the big shots with big names.

The organization also honors lifetime achievement through the AAC Culinary Hall of Fame. Celebrity Chefs (a different category than the Hall of Fame), which has included James Beard, Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and Cat Cora.

“I remember telling my peers that one of these days I want to be like this. I want to be part of this community. And it came true.

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Honoring a leader’s commitment to their community

For 11 years Cabrera led the kitchen at The Grill at Quail Creek and during that time he became a role model for budding cooks and connected with the community he serves.

“I talk to members when I’m designing a menu,” he says. “Because they eat here more often than people in regular restaurants.”

Mentoring is one of Cabrera’s passions. “I tell them, I came from Mexico and I started as a dishwasher without knowing English and now I’m here. If I can do it, so can you,” he said. “One of my successes is that my sous chef was transferred to another community as the executive chef. Seeing their success makes my heart swell.

When asked how he got to where he is today, Cabrera replied, “It takes passion and dedication. Everything else follows.

The awards ceremony and official induction will take place in Las Vegas on July 26.

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