Now We're Cookin': Meet Chef-in-Training, Ebert Cabrera
I recently met Ebert Cabrera - a sharp and motivated young man with a knack for all things culinary who is not going to let being deaf get in the way of his dreams.
Ebert, I’m glad to meet you and have the opportunity to capture some of your interesting story. You’re just wrapping up your Junior year at Apple Valley High School. Which CTE program were you involved in this year?
I am in the baking class. I took cooking before this class, but this year I’m in baking. I’ll be in Baking 2 next year.
What motivated you to pick culinary arts as a topic of study?
I want to be a professional chef someday. I knew that this class was going to help me do that.
What kind of chef do you want to be? Is there a particular place or cuisine that interests you?
Right now, I’m interested in everything - all types of foods. I still need to figure that out - to explore my options and what’s out there.
What are the most significant skills or learnings you acquired through this program?
Technical kitchen vocabulary, number one. Also, I learned names and uses of various tools and forms of cutlery. I learned about the types of meat, how to determine freshness of ingredients and when ingredients need to be disposed of, how to properly store product, and all about food temperatures.
Have you used these skills in your daily life?
I am cooking more at home. I learned a lot about cooking from my grandmother when I was younger. She’s a fine cook with a lot of great cultural recipes. Now that I know more, I can better understand and refine the details and the topic has become much more interesting to me.
Is there anything you’d change about your experience in the culinary pathway if you were to go back and do it again?
(Ebert pauses to think and consider) I actually wouldn’t change anything. If I could, I’d take this again and again.
I understand you competed in Skills USA this year. How was that experience?
This was my first time competing in something like this. Mrs. Celie asked if I was interested in competing and I agreed to give it a try. Before the regional competition in January, I practiced a lot. I knew I had to make pumpkin bread, a lattice pie crust, sugar cookies and a pie shell within a certain time limit. I kept practicing until I felt confident I could pull it all off within the allowed timeframe. When I went to the regional competition in San Bernardino, we put on our culinary uniforms, reviewed the rules, about cooking area boundaries, and what would result in point deductions. It was a stressful event - at one point all of the ovens were full and I had to wait, the individual in the station next to invaded my workspace with his stuff, and an oven I was using was turned off by another student. Yet, I was able to get everything done and was awarded first place. Because I got first, I competed in the state competition in April. At the state competition in Ontario, I had to bake pumpkin bread and decorate a cake according to specific requirements then bake an apple pie with lattice crust and apple turnover as well as make a pie shell. I was worried that I wouldn’t complete the items in time but managed to pull it off. In fact, I even had enough time to clean my station before time ran out.
That seems like a lot to pull off. Did you have to make these item simultaneously or one at a time?
Items had to be made at the same time. For example, the pie took 30 minutes to bake, so once that was in, I had to focus on something else. My time management skills have been refined through this and that certainly helped.
What’s the best part of the culinary CTE program?
Getting to learn about and make different things. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year to take the 2nd baking class and decorating more cakes.
Have you had any challenges you’ve had to overcome through all of this?
There was a small communication challenge at first, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve had a great time here in this program so far. I’ve learned a lot, my teacher, Mrs. Celie, has been very supportive and helpful, and I look forward to learning more with her next year.