Friday, October 26, 2012

Micro Blog: Jorge Zarate-Arenas

Hello everybody let me share with you the steps in my journey that have brought me here and the people that have inspired me to reach my goals. 
My mom was the first person to teach me the basics of the kitchen when I was little.  She told me I had to learn to cook like her, so that when I was away from home I won’t have to miss my family's cooking. My mom told me that someday I would understand. At first none of that made sense to me because I never imagined myself being away from my family. One day in my adolescence, my uncle Juan, who was known in town for his culinary skills, invited me to a tour of festivals in different towns where he was responsible for preparing the banquet for the parties. That was a beautiful experience, because I like traveling to different towns where his reputation was known and I saw how people loved him and admired his work and dedication. I remember my uncle Juan used to say, “Son, if you learn how to cook, this is a very noble profession, and if you do it from the bottom of your heart, it will open the door to wherever your life takes you”. At that time, I did not understand the meaning of his words. When the time came for me to be away from my family, my mother's words showered on me like rocks because there were occasions when I had no choice but to eat food with bad flavor. It was then when I decided to buy some basic cooking utensils and begin to recreate the dishes of my family, starting with breakfast because it was the easiest thing for me to do.  That's when I discovered that basic skills were inside of me, though I did not have the perfection of my mom or my uncle Juan.  Nevertheless, I felt that I had my family close to me again. With the passage of time, through trial and error, I was able to recreate some of the family recipes-thanks to the teachings of my mom and my uncle Juan.
    Many years later, I found my passion in my career as a scuba instructor in the island of Cozumel.  Through my career of meeting people from various parts of the world, I had opportunities to enrich my palate with new flavors and different styles of food. Since then, I’ve gained a respect and admiration for those behind the scenes delivering dishes with dedication and creativity. Since I came to the United States a few years ago, leaving Cozumel to be with my wife, I have taken job openings which I did not particularly care for.  My wife saw my frustration, and recorded a television program, in which The Chefs Academy advertised and promoted a new cooking school in the area. Watching the program lit the spark in my head, and at the same time, the words of my uncle Juan hit me in the face like a frying pan as well. My wife’s gesture has ended up showing me the way to a new opportunity in my life, where I can dedicate my time to something I’m really passionate about again. So far, I’ve only cooked for my wife, who enjoys and appreciates my efforts in the kitchen, but I hope to gain more experience, knowledge, techniques and different cooking styles soon, and have the opportunity to put my enthusiasm into something tangible for others to enjoy.
    I’ve got my inspiration in the career of cooking thanks to my family from whom I got my first lessons and advice, and also thanks to my wife, who ignited a spark inside of me that’s hard to extinguish now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Micro Blog: Dylan Holmes

     It was not long ago that I was working my way through a string of jobs that I absolutely detested, but had to continue because I had buried myself in bills unreasonable to pay off with my income. I'm a few months in to my twentieth year of life, I had attended community college for a couple of semesters after high school, but most of my “adult” life has been spent in “the real world.” I was living in an apartment with my girlfriend and another room mate, working full time for only a little over minimum hourly wage. I had rent, utilities, phone service, gas, cable, internet, and blah, blah, blah to pay for. I didn't see attending college again as a feasible option in my situation. Between attending class, working full time, and sleeping, my days would've already been devoured, not to mention any other errands that I may have been responsible for.
     My unfortunate situation carried on for a few months, and things would progressively become worse. I was stressed beyond my control, my relationship was suffering because of it, and we had a rocky living arrangement with our room mate at best. A few months ago my girlfriend and I moved back to our parent's homes, and that took some heat off of both of our lives. I'm happy to say that our relationship continues strong! That took care of a slew of problems, but I still worked far too often at a job that I disliked, and I had virtually no higher education.
     My sister, Kaili Holmes is enrolled to start the October term in PA at The Chef's Academy. I've received extensive information about this school over the past year since she enlisted. She graduated high school a whole year early. I'm incredibly proud of her. She'll be starting the program at only 17! Despite that, I found myself constantly upset that I didn't take a similar path as she has. I was not highly motivated throughout primary school, and my college education before TCA was a joke. I was headed nowhere.
     I found a job at a start up cafe in Wake Forest, and I had the realization that I could enjoy the culinary field. It's hands-on, creative, and I knew it would truly help me push my comfort boundaries. I've struggled with that my entire life. I was ecstatic when my family approved. I emailed Ashley for info about the program, and she replied faster than I could have imagined. In the mere weeks following, I had toured, attended orientation, and had all my financial obligations in check.
     Since class has started, I've been more optimistic about my future than any other time I can recall in my life. I'm looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can! I love the common passion we all have for this career and TCA makes me feel incredibly at peace with myself. More blogs to come, for sure, as I progress in my schooling, but I needed to simply express what The Chef's Academy has done for my life, and my outlook.
            Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
                                    -Henry Ford

Friday, October 5, 2012

Micro Blog: Raven McNulty

The “Tart” to my Future
By: Raven McNulty

It was June, the sun was blazing, my cap and gown for graduation stared back at me. I was still undecided on college, just weeks before I had made it to the finals for the Top Teen Talent Scholarship competition. I would be competing for a full tuition ride to The Chef’s Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana in just a few days.  Before we get into that lets jump back a few months, I was the caption of my high school culinary team and we had just gotten 5th in the state for the FCCLA culinary competition. My heart had been set on baking since I was 8 and cooking really wasn’t my thing. After intense training and competing at Johnson and Wales I knew baking was my passion. We had been looking into The Chef’s Academy for a while but I still didn’t know if I fit there or in Charlotte. My dad came across the competition and I immediately said no in fear of another let down, not to mention the 10 hour drive. As weeks passed the deadline was approaching and my dad successfully convinced me to enter my Banana Pudding Cupcake just a day before.
Friends and family started voting and before I knew it I was in the lead for votes. Just under me was William Hamilton who constantly out voted me for weeks but my friends weren’t going to let that happen. I came out on top for votes and started preparing for competition. I baked the competition recipe twice a day for a week trying to perfect my skills and let’s just say if anyone wanted a chocolate mousse tart, I was their girl. My dad and I made the 10 hour trip from Cary, NC the day before competition. I spent the trip studying for exams since I still had a week left before graduation and thought about what college decisions I had ahead of me.
I had never been so nervous and excited at the same time. I had never been to Indianapolis and I knew that the competition was going to be a great experience regardless of the outcome. On little to no sleep we arrived at the Indianapolis campus and began to wait for competition to begin. William Hamilton, whom I thought to be my biggest competition, sat at the table next to ours making note cards while I jammed out to “Call Me Maybe.” I knew if I wasn’t having fun then there would be no way for me to win and I hoped listening to my iPod would help others relax too. Sure enough, William went to get his iPod and we were ready to represent NC the best we could. This one day, this one tart, was going to decide how the rest of my life was going to play out. As we got into the kitchen I was feeling so many emotions and with everyone running around it was hard to keep my hands from shaking. I had an hour and a half to perfect and plate my tart with garnish. As the clock ran down I had 30min to get my tart in the oven, remake my mousse and plate. To this day I still don’t know how I managed to stay composed when things went wrong in the kitchen but I’ll never forget the encouraging words of pastry chef Ben Hardy. After time was up I was beyond proud of myself and what I had accomplished, I even made some new friends too.
We sat in the conference room as scholarships and scores were handed out when my heart began to race. Three of us were left and I knew I wanted William or myself to take home first place. First William was called for third place, I was disappointed, he had worked so hard and deserved to be in second. As my name was read for first place I began to tear up. I wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened. Did I really just win a full ride to culinary school? I had made a path to success obtainable without the weight of debt on my shoulders.  The money wasn’t the most important part, after the competition I was congratulated by chefs and I was told my skills/talent outweighed my experience; I knew I was going places. I had made the best decision for me. Through competition I gained more than just a scholarship, I gained confidence, a friend in William, and I guess my friends and family gained a little weight too. Without a doubt William and I are taking on culinary school by storm and let’s just say this won’t be the last time we compete.  After my first week of school at The Chef’s Academy I know this is where I belong. I finally feel like I fit in and more importantly this school is the start to a very successful career.  A few months ago I never would have thought a chocolate mousse tart could change my life.