One of the more recent additions to our chef instructor roster, Chef Chanel Martinez was a welcome addition to our online culinary arts certificate program teachers. Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Chef Chanel’s experience and success in both the culinary and pastry arts means she’s the type of person to not only educate students but invoke passion and inspire them as well. From working as a line cook in restaurants to owning her own thriving catering company, she knows what it takes to not only survive but be successful in such a competitive profession.
Chef Chanel took some time out of her busy life to fill us in on her secret ingredient, why she loves being an educator and what her recipe for success is in the culinary arts world.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: What is your background in the culinary arts?
Chanel Martinez: I started off in the culinary world working as a line cook and expanded into catering, where I found a real love of setting up the whole room and making it about the overall atmosphere rather than just a plate. I had a love for baking and pastry as well so I always had my hand in making the dessert table!
AESCA: What has been your favorite job so far in your career?
CM: My favorite job in the culinary field has been my own catering company. I started it from the ground up and built it from scratch. It allowed me to explore every facet of the business. I morphed from catering small events to doing wedding cakes. Not being classically trained in pastry but doing cakes allowed me to enter into the sweet side of things and pushed me to get certified as a pastry chef through the American Culinary Federation. I also love teaching! I never thought I would fall into it as soon as I did but education is something I love because you can never stop learning.
AESCA: Why did you want to get in the culinary field?
CM: I entered into the culinary field because it allowed me to be creative and active on my feet and travel around the nation.
AESCA: What do you love most about being an educator with the online program?
CM: In the online program, I am able to meet so many students that I would not be able to meet any other way. I love the outreach I have to work with students anywhere in the world! The student’s background adds so much to the classroom that it becomes the most amazing collaboration in learning for everyone!
AESCA: What is the one ingredient you always have to have in your kitchen?
CM: Most chefs would say salt, but I think that is a given! I love Worcestershire sauce—it is one ingredient made from so many! It adds a savory element and gives most dishes the extra kick it needs.
AESCA: What do you think one culinary education can offer students around the world?
CM: I believe that culinary education is the platform for all other learning. It allows students to have a great base to continually grow from. I love the eye opening experience when a student makes something simple like mayo or a soup and there is such pride in how simple yet delicious it is. It creates a confidence to tackle food that they might not have considered to try making previously.
AESCA: What was your biggest culinary dish triumph?
CM: Bread. I love bread, I love baking bread…but bread is in charge! You cannot make it ferment faster than it wants to or make it bake quicker. It is ready when it is ready! It is so simple, yet humbling. When you can master bread and a great crust and airy crumb, you can conquer anything!
AESCA: What are your top 3 favorite ingredients to cook with right now?
CM: I am doing a lot of paleo dishes at home so I am working with cauliflower and turning it into “mashed potatoes” or “rice”. I’m also enjoying using tapioca starch to make paleo flat bread and a lot of coconut oil because it has so many uses and health benefits!
AESCA: We usually have one! Is there a food you hate?
CM: I might be the only person in the world…but I am not a peanut butter fan. Yes, I know…
AESCA: Any words of advice for people thinking about getting into the culinary arts?
CM: I think the biggest piece of advice I always have is that a passion for cooking is a must and that is what gets us into this business in the first place. Will to keep doing it is what you really need. Things go wrong, there are long days and it can be defeating at times. The will to keep going is what you need to find when the going gets tough…and it will get tough. However, you need to rise above it and laugh when it does not go as planned. This business will bring great stories and the best stories never come from it turning out perfectly!