By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com
VALLEJO – Chocolate plus creativity worked for Carole Jessica Cruz, a 24-year-old from Vallejo, when she grabbed the second prize at the California Culinary Academy’s Panier De Marché Patisserie Scholarship Competition last month. The competition takes place twice a year at 12 of the Le Cordon Bleu Schools North America affiliate school locations. All participants start off with an essay and end with an intense kitchen challenge.
Cruz’s winning culinary piece was original white chocolate custard garnished comwith berries and oranges. During the kitchen challenge and scholarship competition, future students were given a market basket containing key ingredients they can use. They were then given 90 minutes to prepare and present two identical plates consisting of assorted fruits, dairy items and dry goods. Contestants were assessed on cooking technique, kitchen organization including safety and sanitation, presentation, taste and timing.
In a story released by the Times-Herald, Cruz explained her choice of ingredient. “You can’t go wrong with chocolate in a dessert competition.” And she was absolutely right, as the recipe earned her a $1,000 scholarship to the California Culinary Academy.
A graduate of Solano Community College, Cruz originally considered majoring in International Studies at San Francisco State. Then finally she decided to focus on “international desserts” — by learning foreign recipes. Admittedly, she has a sweet tooth — partnered with her love for cooking — but her pursuit of making culinary arts as a career only came recently.
“I figured it would be good for my culinary skills to learn French and Japanese,” said Cruz in the Times-Herald. “I just wanted to do something I would enjoy for the rest of my life, and not have second thoughts.”
She credits her mom for her love for cooking as it was her mom who taught her all the Filipino dishes at a very young age. That time, she already knew that she wanted to be chef.
A true Filipino, Cruz infuses her culture into her cooking especially for friends and family, for whom she cooks native dishes like palabok and sinigang.
Cruz looks forward to her culinary career and is aiming to open her own bakery.