Tag Archives: Columbia Law School

Queens chef wins Food Network’s ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Brian Redondo

Chef Tomica “Tom” Burke took a leap of faith that made her a Food Network champion.

Burke, a Douglaston resident who grew up in Cambria Heights, came out the victor Sunday on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” She went head-to-head with three other chefs on the reality cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Alton Brown.

“I couldn’t breathe in the morning before we started filming,” Burke said. “Once we got into the studio, it was a totally different ball game. You’re there and doing the best you can. It was very hard; between every round I had no idea what was going to happen.”

Contestants are given $25,000 at the start of the show to bid on the right to sabotage their competition during three rounds of cooking challenges.

In the episode called “Chain of Tools,” Burke had to create her own versions of Cobb salad, enchiladas and layered cake while facing sabotages such as having to mix ingredients in a cement mixer and create her own kitchen out of items within a shopping cart.

Although Burke had received no training as a chef and never enrolled in culinary school, the Queens resident beat her competition Sunday night and took home a total of $8,600 in winnings.

“You have no idea what you can do until you have to do it,” she said.

Burke, however, did not start off as a chef. The 31-year-old graduated from Columbia Law School and, while studying and working in a city law firm, took courses at the Institute of Culinary Education. She then decided to leave the legal profession and opened her own catering company in 2013 called “TomCookery – New Comfort Cuisine & Catering.”

Since then, Burke has been cooking Caribbean and Southern-inspired food, influenced by her grandmothers, out of the Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City. TomCookery caters for any kind of party including weddings, bar mitzvahs and much more.

She said as a new business it was very important for her to take the risk of competing on the show, which she hopes will create more business and recognition for TomCookery.

“I think taking risks is super-important in general,” she said. “You shouldn’t limit yourself, just jump at every opportunity and let life decide what is going to happen.”

For those who want to catch a rerun of Burke on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” the episode will air again on April 26 at 4 p.m. and May 4 at 6 p.m.

For more information on TomCookery visit here.



Spotlight on justice: Joseph Zayas, Administrative Judge of the Queens County Supreme Court

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Justice Joseph Zayas

Growing up in a tough neighborhood in West Harlem, Justice Joseph Zayas never considered a future in the justice system.

Fast forward, and today he is Administrative Judge of the Queens County Supreme Court.

In January, Zayas was appointed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti as the Administrative Judge for Criminal Term of the Supreme Court in Queens.

“I’m humbled by the way that the Lord has blessed me,” said Zayas. “I never had dreams that I could become a lawyer.”

The judge, who lives in Little Neck, started in night school and made his way to Fordham University where he began interning for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and others. After deciding to follow law in order to fight for the rights of poor people, Zayas enrolled and graduated magna cum laude from Columbia Law School.

“I went from being in a public housing project in a tough neighborhood to going to an Ivy League,” said Zayas.

Under the mentoring of Supreme Court Justice Rolando T. Acosta, Zayas served as the principal law clerk at the Harlem Community Justice Center.

Previously, he had served as Deputy Supervising Judge of Criminal Court in Queens County and as the presiding judge of the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Center and the Mental Health Recovery Court. Zayas then was appointed as a judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003 and later reappointed in 2010. In 2012, he was appointed as a Judge of the Court of Claims by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Maintaining his deep Hispanic roots, Zayas serves on the Advisory Board of the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County, is the Secretary of the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage, and is an active member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association.

“We’re always fighting to see that number [of Latino judges] grow across the state because we all believe in a diverse bench,” said Zayas. “Diversity makes us all better, diversity makes the whole bench better.”

For his dedication and commitment to the Latino and legal community in Queens, Zayas was honored by the Latino Lawyers Association and District Attorney Richard Brown in 2008 and 2012 during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Zayas hopes to mentor Latino attorneys in the future while enjoying life with his high school sweetheart, three children and grandson. “I’m just taking it one week at a time,” said Zayas. “We’ll see what the good Lord has planned for me later on.”