t Cook. Craft. Create. in July, four students will compete to become ACF’s Student Chef of the Year. What does it take to become one of the best future chefs in the U.S.? To find out, we took a peek into their lives, and discovered the answer is a lot of hard work, practice and determination. And a little R&R, too.
Andrew Dos Santos // Central Region
Andrew Dos Santos will earn his Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts next spring, and currently works as a line cook at Walnut Creek Country Club. He’s quite involved on the competition circuit, as Nationals will be his eighth time competing. He was MCCA Student of the Year in 2017 and apprenticed for Chris Johnson, MCCA’s 2016 Chef of the Year.
“I usually wake up around 6 or 7 a.m. depending on whether or not I have class. When I have a competition to prepare for, I’ll always be either there or at work, doing my mise en place for practice or doing an actual run. If I don’t go to school or work early, I’ll leave for work at 1 p.m., then get home between 10 p.m. and midnight, depending on how busy service was.”
“The first thing [I do in the morning] at school can vary. Work is pretty straightforward, though: Get in, get a drink, turn on any equipment that wasn’t on in the morning, set up my station and then get to work on any prep I may have to do before service.”
“The last thing to be done before I go home will be to finish scrubbing the floors with my coworkers, along with any last minute thing that has to be taken care of before we go, whether it be handling the stocks or pulling anything out for the next day.”
“[This week] we opened our upscale kitchen at the club for the year. The first night was pretty slow, but on Saturday we had a really great, steady service. Everything went really smooth for the first good day on a new menu for a new year.”
Julio Chavez // Northeast Region
Julio Chavez attends the State University of New York at Delhi and expects to graduate with his Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts this fall. When he was five, Julio’s 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 (IFSEA) 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.
“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.”
“The worst thing that happened to me this week was getting a ticket while coming back home from spring break. But the best thing that happened to me this week was finding out that I’m getting inducted into Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society.”
Utahna Warren // Western Region
Utahna Warren is a student at Utah Valley University’s Culinary Art Institute and expects to graduate in 2019. She’s also no stranger to competition, winning regional first place with her Pro Start team in 2014 and taking second at the state level, and she won a silver medal at a FCCLA Culinary Arts Competition.
“I wouldn’t say I have an average day because my schedule varies a lot with school but in my week I go to various culinary classes, I work at our Culinary Arts Institutes Cafe that we students run and I find time to practice and experiment with a dish I’m working on.”
“[The first thing I do every morning is] mise en place. I try to get there early to have everything set up. And that’s not only physically. Mise en place includes what’s going on in your mind. I try to think about what I have to do throughout the day so that I can be prepared and use my time the best I can.”
“[At the end of the day, I] clean and clean and clean. I love coming back to a clean kitchen everyday.”
“[The best thing that happened to me this week was] figuring out my components for my Category K competition. [The worst thing was] getting cut by tin foil — which I’m not complaining about.”
Tien Dung Tran // Southeast Region
Tien Tran graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in December 2017, earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts Management — and a 3.8 GPA. He was promoted to Sous Chef at Serpas True Food in Atlanta after working there for just seven months, and once cooked at the James Beard House’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“Besides going to school, I go to work. After finishing, I like to relax by watching TV and playing a game. Sometimes I will test out a new recipe or just look at a new way to upgrade an old, classic, traditional plate. I also often go to supermarkets, Asian markets and farmer’s markets, [because] I want to stay up-to-date with pricing and find out what is in season.”
“The first thing I do when I get to work or school is say hi to everyone that I know. I think it’s a warm, polite gesture, just to show that I acknowledge them.”
“The last thing I do before going home is to double-check everything, make sure all equipment is off, the floor is clean and the set-up is ready for the next day. It is [part of] my job duties, but it is a good habit to develop over time.”
“[This week,] I got many job offers from top chefs in Georgia that would love to work with me. So I got that going for me, which is nice.”