While still high school students at Shadow Mountain High School, Kyle Hollenbeck, Michael Cartolano and Tom D'Ambrosio, dreamed that one day they would be able to open a restaurant of their own.

After graduating from Shadow Mountain High School in 2006, they each pursued different degrees with their goal mind. With any successful business, the key ingredients are having different skill sets and expertise, in order to make the endeavor prosper. Kyle earned his degree in Advertising from Northern Arizona University (NAU), Michael earned his degree in Business Administration from NAU, and Tom graduated from NAU with a degree with a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Restaurant Management. Tom is also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and completed his apprenticeship at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Their dream became a reality when the trio launched their food truck business, Aioli Gourmet Burgers, in January 2014. By June of the same year, they started offering catering and began booking public and private events. Through their catering business, they formed relationships with some of the top wedding and party planner in the Valley. Hard work and determination saw their business expand once again, when they recently opened a restaurant in the 32nd and Shea neighborhood – right next to Shadow Mountain.

Their advice to students who want to pursue a career as a restaurateur or entrepreneur is to find your niche and research your market. Before they opened their business, Kyle, Michael and Tom spent a lot of time building a business plan to help mitigate risk, structure financial growth and build a realistic timeline. Building brand recognition is vital to any organization and Aioli Gourmet Burgers has done this effectively through their use of social media.

Students who have a passion for food, or would like to start their own business someday, can begin their journey by taking culinary arts or business classes while in high school. The Culinary Arts program provides students with hands-on instruction in the classroom and in commercial-grade kitchens. PVSchools offers culinary programs at North Canyon, Paradise Valley, Pinnacle and Shadow Mountain High Schools. Business courses offered throughout all of our high schools help lay the foundation for learning how to start and build a successful business.