by Jocelyn Tolbert
At Cook. Craft. Create. in July, one student from each of the four regions will compete to become ACF’s Student Chef of the Year.
ACF Northeast Region Student Chef of the Year Julio Chavez attends the State University of New York at Delhi and expects to graduate with his Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts in fall of this year. When Julio was five, his family immigrated to the United States from Mexico and settled in New York state. He’s a recipient of the International Food Service Executives Association Lowe Family Worthy Goal Scholarship, and when he’s not in class, Julio works as a production chef at Wegman’s in Rochester, New York.
What was the regional championship like for you? How did it feel to win?
I saw the regional championship as a one in a lifetime experience. When the judges were announcing the winners I felt confident of myself due to the critics that were given. After was announced the 2018 Northeast Region Student Chef of the Year I walked up to receive my medal and it felt so unreal. I low key got emotional for a second due to the excitement and enjoy but everything that I had worked for had lead up to that point.
How are you preparing for the Convention competitions?
The way I prepared for convention competitions was through a lot of hard work and dedication. I decided to come back from winter break early to start practice runs. I gave myself a good month to practice once or twice a day. Practices weren’t easy as each run I tweaked a thing or two on my dish. At times I would get frustrated because I didn’t make proper timing but I pushed myself and achieved what I wanted.
Had you ever done any cooking competitions before this experience?
I have done three previous competitions prior to regionals. Those competitions include: International Food Service Executives Association:14th Annual Veteran's Support Network Military Culinary Competition: First Place in the Student Category, American Culinary Federation Student Hot Food Competition: Silver Medal, American Culinary Federation Student Cold Food Competition: Bronze Medal.
Has anything unexpected ever happened to you during a competition? What did you do to get through it? How did it turn out in the end?
On my way to Maryland for my first cold food competition my cold food platter melted while in the van. My classmates and I were covered in aspic and we had to stop on the side of the highway and throw out my platter. Unfortunately I couldn’t compete but my other classmates did. After that I waited till next semester and did another cold food competition. Even though it melted I didn’t give up and I took it as a learning experience.
What impact do you think this award will have on your life? Has it already had an impact?
This award has opened up many doors for me. I say this because I have already received many job offers from different employers. Many students look up to me as a leader and ask for advice when needed. In addition it’s a great achievement to put on my resume when I apply for future jobs because it shows how dedicated I am to my career.
What’s been the best advice you’ve gotten as a culinary student?
The best advice I gotten as a culinary student is to get out of my comfort zone and do something new. Also I was told to take failure as a learning experience and to never let that define me.
What advice would you give to other aspiring chefs?
Some advice that I would like to give other culinary students would be to be more involved. I say that because while in school going to classes and labs doesn’t cut it. If you want to learn more knowledge join clubs and help out with events. In other words get yourself out there because if no one does who will. I say that from experience because my first semester of freshman year I did the bare minimum and I wanted to change that. So after that I decided to change my life around. Some of the things I did were: Join the SUNY Delhi Hot Food Team 2017-2018, become a Brother of Latino America Unida, Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Incorporated, become a member of the American Culinary Federation Chefs and Cooks of the Catskill Mountain, join a local community service group called the Delaware County Community Action Program, became a member of the International Food Service Executives Association Club: Delhi Branch and join the Escoffier Club.
Tell us about your experience immigrating to the United States.
I was born in Dantzibojay, Hidalgo, Mexico. I was able to come to this country through my father who processed paperwork for our whole family through Immigration Services. Coming to the United States was big challenge for me, since I didn’t speak any English. I came to this country at the age of five and everything was foreign to me but I was determined to learn and be successful.
We decided to start our new lives in Sodus, New York. We came to New York without any belongings and barely any money. When my parents enrolled me in school I was that one kid that stood out because I didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and wore second-hand clothes. Fortunately, with the help of the school, I was able to learn proper English within a matter of three years.
My parents always pushed me to do better then them and make them proud. They struggled through so much to get my family of six siblings to live the American dream. Three of my oldest brothers decided not to go to school but to work. My two sisters were able to graduate from high school and later on received their Bachelors Degrees in Psychology, Criminal Justice and Gerontology from the State University of New York at Oneonta.
Going to college is a privilege because some don’t have the same opportunities when it comes to education, proper legal status, funds, or guidance. I say this because both my parents worked during their childhood and adolescence, making them unable to have access to a proper education. At such a early age they both had to take care of cattle, make food and farm, and school was put at the bottom when it came to priorities. Through their hardships I was able to then make goals for myself. Some of those goals included learning English, coming to college to get an education, becoming a chef and owning a restaurant.
Today I look back at how far I have come and thank my parents for there support and am grateful for everything they have taught me. I’m making them proud through my actions and accomplishments because they, as children, never had the opportunity to do so.
What’s an average day for you like?
An average day for me would be waking up for class and eating breakfast. After that I would go to all my classes, usually from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Then I go the library for a couple hours to study and do homework. After that, I might go to two of my club meetings and then to my fraternity meeting. Then I go home, cook dinner and watch “Ugly Delicious” on Netflix.
What was the worst thing that happened to you this week?
The worst thing that happened to me this week would be getting a ticket while coming back home for my spring break.
What was the best thing that happened to you this week?
The best thing that happened to me this week was finding out that I’m getting inducted into Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society. And being able to turn in four scholarships and an application to be nominated as Hospitality Student of the Year.
At Cook. Craft. Create. in New Orleans July 15-19, four students will compete to become ACF’s Student Chef of the Year. The national convention will feature additional educational and engagement opportunities that will build off the ChefConnect series and will provide a revitalizing experience for members, foodservice professionals, students and competitors. All the while igniting innovation that attendees can bring back to their classroom, employees or kitchen! We hope to see you there!