Proudest career accomplishment in the past year:
Working my way through culinary school and continuing my degree while working full time at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I wanted to go to culinary school to learn more and expand my creativity. As a chef, I have thrived and grown in my skill and presentation.
Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:
Learning the English language. When I came over from Cape Verde in September 2009, I only knew a little, barely enough to make a full conversation. At the time, I was a senior in high school and it was very difficult to communicate with others. In my spare time, I watched a lot of American TV and had to look up many words in the dictionary. I began my career as a full-time student and a full-time dish room worker; it was a busy time in my life, for sure. In addition, when I turned 18, I became the guardian of my two younger brothers when my father went back to Cape Verde to be with my mother. They wanted the best for us and believed that the United States had so much more opportunity. It was a struggle but well worth it. Since then, I have received my associate’s degree in culinary arts, I am on my way to a bachelor’s degree in business, and I am proud to say that I officially became an American citizen in 2017!
Most rewarding moment:
Rewarding moments for me are always getting feedback from the customer. Giving them that experience and memory is something really special. We recently had a group of food executives come down for a big meeting on campus, and I was in charge of the catering appetizers, soups, salads, the main course and desserts. At the end of the night, they had glowing reviews and begged for some of the recipes. To me, hearing that—there’s nothing better.
Short- and long-term career goals:
Short term, I would like to become the catering chef. Right now, I am apprenticing and learning from the best. We are in charge of over 1,000 events and support residential dining services as well. Long term, I would love to one day open and own my own place. My dream is to open a small restaurant in my home country.
One thing you’d change about foodservice:
I wish everyone had more of a love for food. When you’re cooking or plating food in the restaurant, the passion can be lacking. For some, it is just a job, and I know that happens everywhere, but I wish I could show people what I see. To me, it is more than just a job. The long hours fade away when there is a terrific plate in front of me.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Piazza