About
ACAI

Welcome to the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes . . .
dedicated to the preservation, understanding and
enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim

The Asian Culinary Arts Institutes was founded in 1994 to offer food professionals and cooking enthusiasts a source for learning more about the extraordinary cooking of the Asia Pacific Rim. Assembling a group of food and business professionals ACAI began its operation with its first Chef's Exchange Program bringing in two master chefs from Shaanxi, China, to the Twin Cities for special cooking seminars featuring classic Chinese cuisine. It continued its work with Asian food consulting assignments for national food producers, associations and schools. It serves as a resource for Asian food information to national and local publications and its founder continues to write a semimonthly food column for a regional Asian newspaper. Its co-founder has written two major cookbooks on the cooking of India and is currently working on a third book.

ACAI operates in the heart of Minneapolis where food professionals and serious home chefs can participate in special seminars on Asian cooking. Limited to four participants, each class explores the cooking of a particular country by learning more about its culinary history and classic flavors. Hands-on practice helps participants understand how to achieve the special textures, blends and balance so important to classic Asian cooking.

ACAI specializes in the classic cuisines of the Asia Pacific Rim . . .
Chinese
Indian
Indonesian
Japanese
Korean
Thai
Vietnamese
. . . and the dozens of other Pacific Rim cuisines.


Meet the people behind
the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes . . .

Phyllis Louise Harris
CEO and Founder, ACAI
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Mrs. Harris completed 13 years of cooking classes at the China Institute in America, New York City (NYC), holds a certificate from the Institute's chefs' classes in China in 1986 and certificates from the Culinary Institute of Hyde Park, New York, and the California Culinary Institute in San Francisco. She is a cookbook author, has taught Chinese cooking, has written food articles for national magazines, was a contributor to Grolier's Americana Encyclopedia Year Book and is food editor of Asian Pages, reaching 150,000 Midwest readers each month with her column on Asian cooking. Mrs. Harris served as executive director of the Midwest Asia Center where she created the Asia Pacific Wings Festival involving six countries with 21 events reaching more than 1.2 million people. She has served on the board of directors and/or chaired committees for more than 20 community organizations including WAMSO, Sister Kenny Institute, Children's Home Society, Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Women's Advertising Club of NYC and Cooper Hewitt Museum, NYC. An entrepreneur with 40 years experience in advertising, marketing and public relations, Mrs. Harris holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Minnesota. Her work earned top national and international advertising awards and its client list included local, national and international clients such as Pillsbury, 3M, J. C. Penney, Macy's, etc. Read more about Mrs. Harris

Raghavan Iyer, CCP
ACAI Co-founder and
Vice President of Education

"Street food was always forbidden in our household," recalls Mumbai native Raghavan Iyer. "My eldest sister, Lali, was really my second mother looking after me and teaching me many things including how to cook," he added. "One thing she insisted on throughout my childhood was 'Don't eat the food on the streets!'" But, somehow the forbidden dishes on the street corners were so attractive to Raghavan that he would often sneak out to try just a few. With a quarter of a rupee in his pocket (barely a penny) he would seek out the old woman selling juicy ripe guavas and patiently wait while she cut the fruit into quarters then carefully smother it in salt and cayenne pepper. Delicious!

Or, he would find the vendors selling garbanzos in mango sauce with fried bread, or split black lentil fritters, or garlic potatoes spiked with fiery green chilies and cilantro. Perhaps part of the attraction was eating the food from bowls made of leaves then feeding the empty leaf bowls to the wild dogs, cows and monkeys that roamed the streets.

The largest city in India, Mumbai is not far from the equator and home to 12 million people. Called Bombay by Westerners, Mumbai reclaimed its original name in 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of India's independence from its British rulers.

It was this culinary background that Iyer brought with him to the United States when he came to Minnesota to study culinary arts and went on to earn a master’s degree in restaurant and hotel management from Michigan State University.  He speaks six languages, has a bachelor’s degree in science from Bombay University, was named the Outstanding Cooking Teacher of the Year 2004 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), and now serves on the IACP board of directors.  He has written three cookbooks on the foods of India including “Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking” and “The Turmeric Trail.”  His latest cookbook “660 Curries” published in 2008 was named Outstanding Asian Cookbook in the U.S. by the Gourmand Awards.  Iyer was a finalist in 2003 and 2005 for the James Beard Journalism Awards and is a regular contributor to national culinary magazines.  He is currently working on his fourth cookbook.

 

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