Here’s Some Advice for Prospective Culinary Arts Students

Julio Chaves, Culinary Student, SUNY Delhi

What made you choose your program?
I knew I wanted to become a chef. I heard that SUNY Delhi had a very well-known culinary program with a reputation for hands-on education and winning competitions and awards. I wanted to join the program and the hot food competition team. The program has given me both a culinary education and an opportunity to travel to competitions. This summer, I competed in New Orleans and won the title of National Student Chef of the Year.

What aspirations do you have upon graduation?
I want to find a mentor that can teach me new techniques. I want to keep learning within the industry and be able to get my executive chef certification within the next 5 years. Ultimately, I want to own my own Mexican restaurant.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
Be dedicated and love what you do. Have a lot of passion for the craft and a willingness to learn. Wake up every day ready to work hard, refine your skills and become successful. Get yourself out there, join clubs and help out with events. Ask for advice from the chefs on campus.

Who has been your biggest inspiration along your journey?
My family moved to the United States from Mexico when I was 5. Their struggles motivated me to work hard in school and go the extra mile. I’m grateful for everything they’ve taught me. Professionally, my biggest mentors are my professors, Chef Sean Pehrsson and Chef Victor Sommo at SUNY Delhi. They taught me everything about culinary skills and are giving me career and life advice.

Amber Kelley has done a lot in her young life. After besting nine other contestants in the kid’s version of Food Network’s popular competition show, she now hosts her own show on the network — Kid’s Menu Makeover. Her mission is to prove that you’re never too young to learn how to cook and appreciate great food.

The secret ingredient

“I grew up in the kitchen helping my mom cook dinner,” Amber explains. “She taught me how to cook the foods I loved, which made me fall in love with the process. My favorite recipe to cook is my poached salmon salad with goat cheese and a tarragon herb dressing. Yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds.”

Noting that we sometimes eat with our eyes, Amber adds, “There are tons of mouthwatering ingredients in that salad, but the secret ingredient is actually on the plate. I use thinly sliced zucchini and I wrap it around the salad on a plate, creating a bowl. It takes your salad to the next level and makes it look like it came from a five-star restaurant.”

Ignoring negativity

Even if your gourmet passion isn’t shared by everyone, don’t let it get you down, because in Amber’s case, it helped drive her towards success.

“My family always cooked wholesome and delicious foods, but when I would bring that to school for lunch, I would get teased,” she says. “None of my friends thought my foods were ‘cool’ because they didn’t have crazy cartoon characters on them. I knew my food was delicious and I wanted to show the world how mouthwatering fresh foods can be. Creating my YouTube channel was my way of proving all the bullies wrong. Through my YouTube channel, I got to connect with so many other people around the world who believe in my message and think my food is cool.”