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Culinary academy at Rancho Cielo helps local youth strive for success

SALINAS, Calif. (KION)- For over a decade, the culinary academy at Rancho Cielo mixes work experience along with classroom training for students throughout the central coast.

The executive chef for the program, Estevan Jimenez, understands all people learn differently.

"We recognize the path of success for everybody is a little bit different," said Jimenez.

A typical day in the kitchen is more than just tasty recipes. Take student Carlos Guajardo Bravo for example. A diligent student who has been there since the summer. He
has learned lessons beyond the kitchen.

"I've learned not only to become a better professional person, but I've also
learned how to perfect my craft, and this is where I want to be. I've learned
so much so many techniques in the kitchen," stated Guajardo.

And paying it forward is all too familiar to the ranch. Assistant Chef Instructor Christian Martinez has made a journey back to educate others.

"To help out the place that helped me, there's no better way to repay, in my
opinion. So my goal was to pay back this place any way that I could"

And helping out has an outcome more significant than one could ever imagine.

"I'm actually working right now to go to the Escoffier culinary school in
Texas and pursue my dream, and this is my ultimate goal is to just become a
chef," said Guajardo.

One of the bigger aspects of learning to cook is learning from each other.

"A few weeks ago, I was being head teacher, and I taught them how to make
a frittata and seeing them all make the frittata like I'm gonna make this at
home it’s so delicious like yes that is exactly what I want. I want people
to learn."

And who doesn’t love to learn something new?

"I've cooked with so many different ingredients that I've never thought I'd
ever touch. You get a feel of different cultures."

But outside the kitchen, other lessons are taught as well. Students also
have the opportunity to learn hospitality techniques. Laura Nicola is the front-of-house instructor for the kitchen. She teaches them fundamental hospitality techniques.

"Why is it important to make eye contact? How should I make a first
impression, what is a good handshake feel like and look like" said Nicola?

With hospitality being the second largest industry in Monterey County, Chef
EJ leaves most with this good advice.

"Their learning how to be good team members, their learning effective
communication, how to be good team members, their learning effective
communication their learning how to work with people that they might not
even enjoy working with and how to achieve common goals."

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Taryn Mitchell

Taryn Mitchell is a weekend anchor and multimedia journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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