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In celebration of Culinary Arts Month, two of our graduating culinary interns, Brianna Torres and Christin Velaquez, talked about what it was like during the four-week culinary training program offered at The Door. During the four weeks, Bri and Chris learned how to prepare and cook affordable, healthy, nutritious meals, and served lunch and dinner five days a week to Door members. Bri and Chris have earned their ServSafe certification, which equips them with the safety training and basic credential they need to make a living wage working in a restaurant. Although some days in the kitchen weren’t easy, they had a ton of fun and lots of laughs along the way. They also discovered people really do love strawberries.

During restaurant week we will be sharing our spin on some of the hottest restaurants’ recipes, so don’t forget to check back to find out what’s cooking at The Door. Now, let’s see what Bri and Chris had to say.

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How did you hear about The Door and its culinary training program?

Bri: I didn’t have a job and my aunt told me about The Door. I’m really good at cooking and wanted to do this.

Chris: I found out about it through one of my old friends. I’d just left CUNY, and I was going through a rough time. I needed a job, and The Door gave me this really great opportunity, and I’m grateful for that.

So it sounds like you’ve never worked in a professional kitchen before. You have to work with a lot of people in The Door kitchen, right? Tell me what it’s like serving lunch and dinner to Door members five days a week.

Chris: One thing I’ve noticed is the chemistry has to be on point or the energy is going to be off. Having good chemistry with other people makes it easier, and a more comfortable work environment.

Bri: I feel like when you’re working with people and you don’t like them, that’s fine, but you can’t bring your personal issues into the workplace. You have to work together, as adults. I did make really good friends. Like me and Chris, and the other intern, Nicole, is a good friend of mine now.

Chris: Cooking is really hard. There’s a lot of sweating and pressure to get things done on time, so having people you can relate to, talk to, makes it more enjoyable.

Bri, you said you liked to cook before you became an intern. Did you learn new cooking skills during the internship?

Bri: Chef Virginia (Monaco) taught me a lot, she’s a great person.  She’s very patient. She taught me how to make dressings and different kinds of sauces. I didn’t even know how to cut with a knife until she taught me how, and I’m really grateful I got to work with her.

(Chris nods in agreement)

Chris: I never knew how to cook. Growing up my mom was disabled, and she wasn’t able to cook. It was just me and her, so we ate out a lot. Now, I can make my own food all the time. I can make chicken cutlets, pork chops, pizza, pretty much any kind of meat. Vegetables, rice, pasta, and stuff.

Bri: If I have a special dinner, I’ll make chicken cutlets with rice and beans. That sounds so good right now.

What kind of food do Door members like to eat the most?

Chris: People like our salmon, but sushi day was crazy. People loved it. They liked the Korean-style fried chicken we made that day, too.

Bri: We’ve been told ever since we got into the kitchen our food tastes better than the other people who used to cook in the kitchen.
Chris: And they’re coo-coo about the strawberries.

Bri: Yeah, it’s like they’ve never eaten a strawberry before, they can’t get enough.

(Bri and Chris laugh)

Can you share the recipes?

Bri: For the salmon, we put salt, breadcrumbs, and Dijon mustard on top of the salmon, and we bake it in the oven.

Chris: The sushi was made with avocado, carrots, cabbage, and rice.

I know here [at The Door] there’s a big emphasis to make fifty percent of every plate served green. Tell me about that.

Chris: Well, every day there’s a vegetarian option and a meat option. Yesterday, we had onions, Italian sausages, and succotash with green peppers. One time we made chicken parm and eggplant parm. And there are other vegetables served, too.

So tell me, what do you see yourself doing after you’ve completed the program? Will you pursue cooking as a career, or as a hobby?

Bri: I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, so I’m applying to nursing school at Bronx Community College.  And I’m going to get a part-time job at Starbucks. Because I earned my ServSafe certification, I can be a barista, and it’ll help me pay for school.

Chris: Well, that’s a little interesting because I would be interested in cooking long term, but it wasn’t my initial choice. Before I was here, I was a production assistant. That’s my true passion in life. Once this internship is finished, I want to get back to being a production assistant.

OK, one last question. There are so many celebrity cooks now, who is one celebrity cook you’d like to meet?

Chris: Gordon Ramsey. Hell’s Kitchen is my favorite show. I watch all of his shows. I love Gordon Ramsey, that’s my guy.

Bri: Martha Stewart. She’s just the best. I love what she does, I love what she bakes. I want to learn how she makes her chocolate chip cookies.

Chris: Gordon Ramsey isn’t nice to people, but one thing about Gordon Ramsey is, his cuts are really thin and that’s something I struggle with. If he’s cutting a cucumber or even a potato, it’s paper thin. That’s what I would try to learn from him, the precision.

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Searching for inspiration for dinner this week? Take a look at The Door’s menu for July.