A love for cooking resonated with Hipolito Torres at a young age, he said. Now, at 18, he’s prepping to participate in a culinary arts competition to win a college scholarship.
Torres, a senior at August Martin High School in Jamaica, is heading to New Rochelle for the America’s Best High School Chef (ABHSC) competition, to vie for a full academic scholarship to Monroe College’s world-class culinary arts program.
“I feel very confident,” he said.
Torres, who has taken food preparation classes for about four years now, is one of 50 high school seniors from around the country chosen to show off their culinary skills Saturday at Monroe’s Culinary Arts Center.
Passion plays a key role in the teen’s cooking. Through time and firsthand kitchen experience, Torres said his love for food and its preparation continually grew. He said he likes “strong flavors” and has gravitated toward using earthy, rustic ingredients.
Monroe’s School of Hospitality and Management and the Culinary Arts, in its sixth year, will host the competition for students interested in pursuing a college degree in culinary arts.
“We are delighted to be hosting this competition,” said Frank Constantino, dean of the school of Hospitality Management and the Culinary Arts. “It provides many seniors interested in the culinary field the opportunity to showcase their skills and vie for a prestigious scholarship that will enable them to further cultivate their talent.”
At ABHSC, Torres will first be judged on his knife skills. He will be challenged with different cutting styles and will be judged on his precision. Next, the “salad basket challenge” will task Torres with making a high-end salad with select ingredients. Finally, the competition will be complete after a “mystery basket challenge,” which Torres said will require him to make a chicken dish.
“We have a lot of fun during the competition, and look forward to welcoming the new contestants,” Constantino said.
Torres’ plan of attack is slow and steady.
“I feel like I just need to pace myself and make sure I know what I’m doing and be confident in my food and skills,” he said.
The teen cook has bright hopes for the future. He aims to win the Monroe College scholarship, and then stay in New York and remain in the restaurant field. Ultimately, he plans to open his own city eatery.
“I want to try to gain as much experience as I can, both in skills and all around as a person in the industry,” said Torres.