beyond being a chef, it is a lifestyle

Make no mistake! If you have chosen study gastronomy because you like to cook, or maybe you think it is one of the simplest careers or simply because it is fashionable, you may be about to make a big mistake, because gastronomy is one of the degrees that requires great passion, a greater commitment and a lot of dedication.

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To study any career you need to feel the call of the vocation, which generally occurs in youth, although there are cases where students do not feel it or ignore it and prefer to study something different for economic reasons or family pressure, which later leads them to drop out of university, or they finish it, but never practice it.


Photo: Cottonbro/Pexels

Patricia González Rodríguez, director of the School of Psychology of El Claustro de Sor Juana, defines vocation as “that inner call that moves us to do something that we are passionate about”.

Explain that it is important that you take into account what motivates you to study gastronomy, what your real interest is, if it has to do with an economic value, with the activity that you are going to carry out or if it has to do with some pressure or commitment family, in addition to identifying which are the activities that you would like to develop, because one thing is choose the race and another is to choose our vocation.

Make your vocational checklist

“I suggest, as part of a check list, that the young person who is about to choose a career, see what they are passionate about in the wide scope of the world of gastronomy, because it is not only food preparation, it can be to be honest and say, is it business administration or what interests me is discovering new products or even new recipes, innovating and taking the traditions of my country to other areas, it would be very important to identify where their interests lie and what is what you would like to do on a day-to-day basis”, comments Patricia González.

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He clarifies that in gastronomy there is not only the preparation of food, but that there is a very broad, very rich field, and with these questions he can clarify his skills, his knowledge and identify his interests, including the economic needs that must be paid.

Like fish in the water

In the gastronomic world of Mexico there is a large number of chefs who have achieved national and international recognition, some of them felt the vocation, the call of gastronomy, from an early age, such as Lula Martin del Campowhose vocation led her to study gastronomy, while others made their way without doing such a career -because it did not exist or they studied something else-, but whose passion and work has led them to be among the best, such as Susana Palazuelos, a name with a symbol of excellence.

Lula Martin del Campo studied the School of Administration of Institutions (ESDAI) of the Universidad Panamericana more than 30 years ago, but when she entered this university she did so with the awareness that it was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, because since little girl felt that call, which increased over the years and has matured along with her.

Owner of two restaurants, Jingle Bell and the seaLula now also works as a businesswoman, but he admits that his happiest stage was when he only had to cook and was not in charge of business, which, although he does not regret it, because it is the logical result of personal evolution, has its complicated part .

Lula grew up in a family of gourmets, and she always thought that this was her path because she enjoyed it, in fact, in her teens she made confectionery to sell it among family and friends, but the call came to her when she was 17, during a summer, when She went to Switzerland to practice French, and one of the subjects she had was cooking, and she decided to sacrifice her free time with her friends, being the teacher’s assistant, because that’s where she felt best.

“It was there, helping the teacher, that I realized that it was the place where I felt the best (…) when I returned (to Mexico) I became very determined to look for a cooking school because I was clear, in the kitchen I felt like a fish in water!” says Lula, who is also passionate about research and field work.

At the ESDAI, Lula cooked twice a week, and for two years he took culinary techniques, and another two years he took culinary art, but he also had to study many subjects around food; for example, in physics she understood how heat is transmitted, or through chemistry she learned about food bonds, what happens with them chemically and physically, the same in microbiology.

“I was very lucky because I found the career that was for me, I did not hesitate, I took my exam, I passed it and I was very happy in the career, I suffered a lot in elementary, middle and high school, I did not like it, the structure of the school cost me a lot of work, I was always an average, mediocre student, but I left the ESDAI with honorable mention, I flourished, I feel very lucky to have discovered my vocation at that age. I am happy with the ingredients, with the dishes”, she expresses.

For those who aspire to follow in Lula’s footsteps, the chef recommends: “First step: look for schools, there is a legend that the best school is the one that is close to you and which you can access for prices and schedules; that there are always better schools than others because they have a better curriculum, because they have better prepared teachers, because with the passage of time we have already realized that they do train chefs”.

But, in addition, he adds, an aspiring chef must be aware of what work in the kitchen is, otherwise it will be very heavy, and school is not enough, it also has to do with the skills and attitude of the student. At your service have come practitioners from technical schools, of low economic level, but with all the commitment and all the desire to learn and get ahead.

“It’s sad that of more than 50 interns I’ve had, I’ve only seen that attitude in about four, but many times schools don’t pay attention to their skills, they just want to get paid,” he explains.

On the other hand, Lula points out that the nature of human beings is to evolve, and after several years as a production and line cook, it was time to be a proper chef, to be the head of a group, which helped her get that part of leadership that she did not know she had, and that was when she wanted to be a businesswoman and open her own restaurants, first Cascabel in Santa Fe, and then Marea in La Roma.

“But I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, because I am already overwhelmed by many things that I didn’t before… that the rent, that I have to sell more so as not to cut the payroll, that later with the pandemic… it has cost me a lot of work the integration of the team, as a businesswoman I have other pressures that I did not have before”, she points out.

The cooks who positioned Mexico in the world

For its part, Susana Palazuelos -who has been multi-awarded abroad for her outstanding role in traditional Mexican gastronomy-, is the example of born talent; she studied hospitality and excelled in public relations; when she got married she stopped working and dedicated herself to taking care of her children, but her passion for cooking marked her path and it was in 1977 when she founded her banqueting company, one of the most famous and prestigious in the country.

Susana says that she grew up in a family that liked to eat well, and she learned that and it enriched her culturally. “I studied hotel management, but when I got married and went to live in Puebla, I wanted them to eat delicious food in my house, so I prepared my dishes very well, decorated them, as well as the table, and they told me that my dishes seemed magazine, and what I did was reproduce what they did at my parents’ house, my grandparents’ house, what I saw on trips, and when my kids began to grow up, because in Puebla the woman who married did not work, I dedicated myself to collect all the recipes, that’s when I really started to get into the kitchen”, he explains.

Susana is one of the founders of the Culinary Circle, of which other great Mexican cooks were part, such as Alicia GironellaMartha Chapa, Patricia Quintana (RIP), among others, who began to meet to cook, to share recipes, then they held festivals, published books and marked an era for Mexican gastronomy, an era in which culinary schools did not exist, but for which, they they forged the foundations and placed Mexico among the best cuisines in the world.

“We do not study cooking, we are cooks. In our families even the children cook, Lalo (Wichtendahl Palazuelos) takes his children to the market, together they look at the cookbooks, they see the recipes they are going to make, he takes them to shop, there is Lalo cooking with his children and They are fascinated by it, for us cooking is something very important in the family, but it is also something very fun”, he points out.

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For those who want to delve into gastronomy, Susana recommends that they not lose their taste for cooking, that they have fun, that they learn every day, because you learn something everywhere, in the changarritos, in the markets, in the restaurants, on trips, and that they do not forget to appreciate traditional cuisine, which is wonderful, that they take classes with traditional cooks, and that they pay special attention to seasoning, because, he says, the secret of good cooking is in the seasoning

The professional call, to change the world

Zulma Zumaya de la Fuente, pedagogue, responsible for postgraduate courses at the College of Gastronomy, points out that vocation is a professional call to improve and change the world, and in gastronomy it has to do with wanting to improve human nutrition.

He points out that it is a career that has part of theory and part of practice, and that the person who wants to study gastronomy must have an attitude of service, because it is a career of service, of giving to the other, of serving the other, not only in terms of serving a dish that is well presented, that tastes good, but also that provides knowledge, because making some chiles en nogada is not the same as knowing their history, saying why they contain certain ingredients, therefore, in its qualities must also be curiosity and interest in research.

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Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

He adds that applicants must be willing to learn everything, because they study history, chemistry, mathematics, administration, service, among other subjects. “It strikes me that later one asks the students why they want to study gastronomy and they say, it is that my grandmother transmitted to me the love for cooking, and that is when one thinks, I hope they realize that gastronomy it implies much more, that is why, precisely, gastronomy is not for many”, he concludes.

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