Jose Cruz’s love for cooking started young – helping his mom make mole in the kitchen in their home in Mexico.
“Since I was little, I always watched my mom cook. I’ve always loved cooking, and even had a food stand in Mexico before I moved to the U.S.”
When he arrived in Chicago, his first step was to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Truman College in Uptown. Once he was comfortable with English, he moved on to earn his GED because he knew he wanted to earn a college degree. As he studied, he was working in restaurants, learning as much as he could both in the classroom and out. After years in the business, however, he knew that he would be able to earn more money and get more opportunities with a degree under his belt.
He found the culinary program at Kennedy-King College’s Washburne Culinary and Hospitality Institute and never looked back.
“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities thanks to Washburne. I’ve worked at the Taste of Chicago, participated in For the Love of Chocolate scholarship support, cooked with Rick Bayless and Graham Elliott, and competed in cooking competitions,” he said.
Jose graduated from the culinary program in 2017, and went to work at the Signature Room. There were no positions in the kitchen, however, so he decided to try working with pastry instead. The more he learned, the more he wanted to learn, fascinated with the science behind the baking. He knew he would learn more with a formal education, so he headed back to Washburne – this time to the baking and pastry program.
“The faculty here are phenomenal,” said Jose. “I’m learning so much, and having fun at the same time.”
Jose now works in two restaurants as he works toward his associate degree in baking in pastry, and hope to one day be a head pastry chef.