Jose Cueva was born in Lima, Peru, as the fifth son of six siblings. Jose says his adolescence was educationally torn between the Catholic religion and militarism in schools. He graduated from high school in 1990 and received a scholarship to study art at the School of Fine Arts in Lima. However, the internal war in Peru put his family in an economic crisis. Therefore, at the age of 16, he decided to leave school and joined a German Christian missionary group, where he received culinary and technical education.
After working a variety of different jobs, Jose eventually immigrated to the United States in 1998. He first moved to California before coming to Chicago in 2002. In Chicago, he met his husband and decided to open up about his sexuality.
Jose’s City Colleges journey began in the summer of 2018, when he began taking ESL classes at Daley College. He utilized the Gateway Scholarship to begin college credit courses in 2019 at Kennedy-King College’s Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute, earning two certificates. In 2019 and 2020, he was honored as a presidential scholar two times.
During the summer of 2021, Jose took advantage of a staging program with the Ace Hotel, KimmyKakes bakery, and more through Washburne. He says it was an excellent opportunity to gain more knowledge for his career. He completed his Associate of Applied Science degree with high honors and a GPA of 4.0 and was named the Kennedy-King salutatorian for the class of 2022. He plans to transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree in culinary management or business administration with a specialization in hospitality management to become an executive chef.
Jose’s ultimate goal is to create an effective food system for low-income communities. “I’ve got the knowledge. And now it’s time to share it,” he said.