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Name: Rafael Cuellar
Graduating Class: Sept 2008
Current Position: Owner La Taqueria pinche taco shop , Vancouver BC
When did you decide you wanted a cooking career?
My earliest experiences with cooking were with my grandmother in her kitchen, I think this is where my love for food first began.
I enjoyed helping out in the family kitchen cooking meals for everyone and seeing everyone gather together. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they enjoyed the foods we made was the most rewarding part.
What obstacles or challenges did you have to overcome to pursue your career?
Not many obstacles but challenges, yes! But they were all good and have helped me to become more successful. All the challenges you are faced with in life, at work and in starting a new business help you learn something new for next time. What you learn in each job and from school will help you be successful life long in your career.
How did your education at Pacific Institute Of Culinary Arts prepare you for your career?
Pacific Institute gave me a solid foundation of not only skills but a variety of different experience in real world settings. Being involved in off-site catering, running a restaurant from every angle, menu development as well as the freedom to try my own ideas and express my creativity.
What advice would you give to current or prospective students about having a successful career in culinary arts?
Take all the knowledge and advice given to you regardless of how small or simple it seems, itís always better to know more then less.
Where did you first work after graduation?
At a restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
What did you gain from this experience?
I learned more about Mexican cooking and I was able to apply the skills that I had learned in my program at PICA in a real world environment.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
Gathering people together and getting to cook for them and see the happiness in their eyes. Food to me is a lot more than cookingÖ.itís about friends, families, cultures and expressing yourself on a plate.
Who or what has inspired you?
Wow, a lot of people have inspired me over my time in the Industry, but what inspires me the most is good food and experiencing different and unique tastes when experimenting.
What are some of the top skills and or attributes that make a successful Chef?
Consistency and quality of products. In my personal opinion the more local produce you use, the better quality and the flavor is. For example, I enjoy using free range meats and sustainable fish.