One look at Tonya Avalos’ photos and one thing is clear: she’s extremely talented. You can also tell that this online culinary certificate program student takes great care in each dish she creates: making sure the plate is meticulous with expert precision. It’s become a source of contention in her household, Avalos jokes, as she doesn’t allow her two sons to dig in until she’s finished with her “mini photo shoot.” But this mom of two from a small town in Texas saw an opportunity arise when she enrolled in the online culinary arts program. No longer did making a career out of her affinity for cooking seem so far-fetched. And with dreams of running a food truck in the future, she’s glad she took the leap and pursued her passion.
Avalos took some time out of her busy life to talk to us about why she chose the online education, the favorite lesson she’s had so far and what she hopes to achieve after graduation.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: Can you walk through your background in cooking?
Tonya Avalos: I’ve had a passion for cooking since I was about 10. I used to play restaurant with my little cousins. I’ve always enjoyed entertaining and cooking for people from BBQs to birthday parties. I love the satisfaction of people enjoying what I have created.
AESCA: Why did you choose the online culinary arts program?
TA: I chose the online culinary arts program because I live in a small town where no schools or classes are available. I have a 2-year-old and a 13-year- old plus I take in rescue animals so I don’t have much time for anything else. Taking classes online makes it easier for someone with a busy lifestyle.
AESCA: What is your favorite part of the program?
TA: My favorite part of the program is the cooking and photo taking. It’s kind of like art…plating and making the food look pretty as well as tasty. My family always gets a little upset because I don’t let anyone eat until I’ve done a mini photo shoot of what I’ve prepared.
AESCA: What’s been your favorite cooking assignment?
TA: My favorite cooking assignment so far would have to be grilling proteins and vegetables. I looked forward to this assignment because it was something we do often here in Texas and it was a lot of fun.
AESCA: How do you feel the online program can benefit others like you?
TA: I feel like the program is an absolute lifesaver. Others can benefit in so many ways. You can hold down a job while doing the program, take care of your kids and home. You can do your assignments at your own pace any time of the day that you choose, and if you have any questions, you always have great chefs to help you out when you need it.
AESCA: What’s your favorite ingredient in the kitchen right now?
TA: My go-to ingredient in the kitchen right now is garlic. It goes great in just about everything. I like to make meals solely based on garlic and just build around it.
AESCA: What’s your favorite comfort food?
TA: My favorite comfort food by far is pizza. You can put just about anything on it to make it taste great. There are so many ways you can make it healthy at the same time.
AESCA: Who is your culinary idol and why?
TA: My culinary idol is Robert William aka Bobby Flay. I know he is a celebrity chef but he has been my inspiration since I was a kid. His back story is awesome. He started out as a busy boy became an Iron Chef and restaurateur. My other inspiration is my two boys. They look up to me and everything I do is for them. They love food and cooking as well. I hope one day they can say they are as proud of me as I am of them.
AESCA: What are your plans after graduation?
TA: My plans after graduation are to open a food truck and sell fresh and unique foods that aren’t common in a small Texas town. I’ve always been unique and am known to be my own person. I really want that to be portrayed in the food that I make. And maybe someday open up my own restaurant!