SchoolCulinary Arts Academy
CountryUSA / MEXICO
Carlos is from the United States but is also half-Mexican. He attributes these two cultural backgrounds as having played an essential role in nurturing his gastronomy interest.
What made you pursue culinary arts?
I initially attended the University of Southern California, majoring in architecture. But I eventually realized that I did not want to pursue that career path. Therefore, I followed my heart and came to Switzerland to develop my passion for culinary arts
Where did you go for your internship, and how was the overall experience?
For my second internship, I went to Barcelona, where I worked at a prestigious 2-star Michelin establishment called Cinc Sentits. The start was tough, as I did not immediately adapt to the 2-star Michelin-level requirements. Fortunately, my colleagues took me under their wing. They trained me well, which significantly honed my fine dining skills and increased my confidence. Therefore, the overall experience was mostly good because, regardless of the stressful challenges I faced, I gained valuable experience.
How about the tasks? Did you have any task you enjoyed the most?
In the kitchen, I rotated through all the areas and got hands-on experience in each of them. I assisted the meat Chef de Partie in making the Trinchat, a typical Catalan dish based on cabbage, guanciale (a cured meat from pork cheek), potato, and garlic. I also helped the fish section with daily harvesting of sea urchins and de-shelling the lobster, which were complicated tasks that required lots of time.
In the amuse bouche section, which was called Picas, I learned and made spherification, based on the cooking concept of El Bulli. (Spherification is a modern molecular cuisine technique that involves creating semi-solid spheres with thin membranes filled with liquids. The result is a burst-in-the-mouth flavor effect.)
Once I mastered the task, I moved to the Passè (the area in front of the cooking line where orders are placed for servers to pick up). Eventually, I was in charge of plating before the dishes were served. This area is generally a bit stressful as many plates are requested to be plated at the same time. Therefore, I needed to organize my time and become more efficient. I consider the plating part the best experience compared to the other tasks because I learned how to work under pressure, manage the timing, plate many dishes simultaneously, and be more efficient at helping.
Overall, I gained a lot of experience, and the learning process was instructive and fun.
Did you face any significant challenge, and if so, how did you handle it?
Earning respect from my co-workers was the hardest challenge. My colleagues were trained at notable and prestigious establishments, and I was still technically in culinary school, so gaining their trust and respect took me a while. However, once I proved my willingness to learn, they began to accept me and my mistakes and started coaching and supporting me. I earned their respect through my hard work. Consequently, my experience in the kitchen became even more enjoyable and rewarding.
What is your plan after graduation?
After graduation, I will work in Asia because I want to experience living there and learn more about Asian culture and gastronomy to enrich my knowledge and broaden my career possibilities. After this experience, I will settle down in the USA, where I will start off working in the kitchens to understand the American kitchen mechanics, and finally, I will operate my own fine dining restaurant where Mexican cuisine will be the focus of the menu since I strongly believe Mexican dishes have great potential to be served on any fine dining table and deserve more appreciation and credit in gastronomy.
Be ready to have thick skin and never take criticism personally. Working with experienced people often means that they will not treat you as nicely as you were used to in school. They will be straightforward and highly demanding. Prove to them your passion and your willingness to work and hone your skills, and they will automatically become great teachers and friends who will have your back.