As we continue our series of highlighting our instructors, students, and alumni by telling their stories of successes, aspirations, and inspiration, we sat down with Edgar Vasquez, a current student at The Culinary School of Fort Worth who will be graduating in the fall of 2021.
CSFTW: How did you get started in the culinary field and what made you want to come to The Culinary School of Fort Worth?
Edgar: It was really a fallback career for me. I wanted to join the military, but then I ended up cooking a lot for a couple of years and decided to make it a job.
So you come here to try to start your culinary career, and while you’re here you got hired at The Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas. What are you doing for them?
I’m on garde manger over there. They’re also teaching me how to do appetizers and allowing me to plate some appetizers every once in a while at the end of service when it’s starting to slow down.
How do you handle the workload of being in school and working at The Mansion?
You don’t really get a choice. You just kind of have to do it. It’s not easy. You’re essentially working an 18-hour day from morning until night. It’s kind of weird because you wake up when it’s dark and you go home when it’s dark, so I’m never really seeing the sun. It’s tough, but it’s doable because I enjoy it enough that it’s not difficult. I’m very happy that I love what I do.
What is some advice that you have for students that plan on doing the same thing in terms of working and coming to school?
Just make sure that it’s actually your passion. You’ll find out very quickly if it’s not your passion once you start working and doing school at the same time. Especially if you work in a kitchen. It’s so physically demanding and time consuming. A normal work week is 40 hours, but most of the time you’re working 46-48 hours. Just find out if you enjoy it, and if you don’t…stock up on coffee, I guess. *laughs*
While you’re at school, my advice would be that you have to try new things. The way they have the kitchen set up, there are ingredients laid out. Especially on days like today with a review, I’d encourage students to not do the exact same thing on the review and the final. Try something one day, and then try something else the next. Always try new things at school even if they don’t work.
What are some of the skills that you learned here at the school that you’re now using at your job?
Definitely a lot of the foundational stuff that you’re taught here goes a long way. When you go to work, especially at a place like The Mansion, they expect you to know how to cut things, how to confit something. They expect you to have some semblance of how to marry flavors together. For me, I watch a ton of videos on flavors – how to fix something that’s too salty or too acidic, that kind of thing. Learn how to fix your dishes rather than be able to cook them. Your job will show you how to cook them. You have to be able to do the extra things that are important in a kitchen.
What are your career goals?
As of now, I just want to work in the best restaurants that I can. I want to work in Michelin 3-Star restaurants and to travel. The company that I’m working with right now (Rosewood) has hotels all over the world. After you put in enough hours, they’ll pay for you to travel and work at their different locations. I’m essentially using this company as a vessel to travel and work in their great locations around the world. After that, I’d like to work in Michelin 3-Star places and then open up my own restaurant.
Who are some of your inspirations in the kitchen?
My first experience with professional cooking was Gordon Ramsay. Watching him on TV and watching his videos sparked my passion for culinary. After watching him, I started doing research on other chefs. You have Anne-Sophie Pic in France, Helena Rizzo in Brazil, and, of course, my chef right now. Learning from him and watching him work has been very influential. The way he manages the kitchen and talks to us, it’s not like Gordon Ramsay screaming at everybody. It doesn’t happen. He’s very chill and a great person to learn from.
What would you say to someone who is considering coming to The Culinary School of Fort Worth?
Start cooking at home first. Cook six hours a day. Cook lunch and dinner back-to-back. If you don’t get tired and you still enjoy it and want to do it again the next day, then it’s probably the right career path for you. That’s what I’ll do on the weekends for my family. I cook all week, but I’ll still cook for them for half of the day and I love it.