Santiago’s 5-Star Michelin Chef: Mr. Medina

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Hey Cavaliers! Do you smell that savory aroma wafting through the air? I believe it’s coming from room 410! I wonder who’s the chef behind all of these mouth-watering dishes… Well, it’s our very own, Mr. Medina! Mr. Medina is in charge of all culinary departments here at Santiago, and he might just be the best chef around.

Besides basic culinary, he also teaches baking, pro-baking, catering, and restaurant management. Although Mr. Medina has been in this field for 32 years, he actually didn’t study to pursue culinary as his first choice. His original major was for international business, but with culinary running in the family, he too became a chef.  Taking this course with Mr. Medina allows students to learn essential life skills, in this case learning how to cook, since it’s one of the many survival necessities. Knowing how to cook is essential, but surprisingly enough not many people have the experience of being in the kitchen. Mr. Medina claims that the only thing that makes his class seem challenging to the students is not having any prior knowledge of cooking. However, starting from ground zero won’t be a problem since in this course Mr. Medina teaches students how to properly handle utensils, make comfort food, and just a little bit of everything.

Not convinced yet? In addition, Mr. Medina hosts this “Mystery Basket” project in his class where the students choose a random basket without knowing what the contents are. Then with their chosen basket, they are required to cook up anything they can think of with the ingredients they have at hand. This project really gets the students thinking outside of the box and trying to improvise around obstacles they may face in order to create a dish that came from scratch. Also, every Friday he holds a deep cleaning day where the students do nothing but thoroughly wipe down the kitchen. Cleaning up after every project is important, and the extra cleanup keeps the workspace sanitary when preparing big meals. While most would say that their favorite part of a class would be the fun projects or activities, Mr. Medina’s favorite part of culinary is getting to see the students succeed. Whether small or big goals are being achieved, these accomplishments bring a bright happy smile to his face. 

You may think that Mr. Medina teaching high school students how to cook, affects how he cooks at home. It doesn’t necessarily affect him in a bad way, more so it further improves his skills as a chef. Growing up, Mr. Medina never really had a professional chef that he looked up to or got his inspiration from. Instead, he built on his own experience, worked at mom-and-pop shops, and he even worked at the luxury hotel, Ritz-Carlton Hotel. With all of his years as a chef he probably excels at every cooking skill with a breeze, but according to him, acquiring knife skills is the toughest as well as perfecting sauces. Some dishes may look complicated and take hours to prepare, but believe it or not, sauces are important to most dishes as it adds extra flavor, texture, color, and moisture. If your sauce is too thick, too watery, too salty, etc., it could ruin the whole meal. As for knife skills, it is a requirement to know and practice if you want to be a good or successful chef. Since there are many cutting techniques, it is important to keep each one clean and consistent. Now, we all have watched a cooking show whether it be to learn new recipes or just to have some white noise in the background, but here is what Mr. Medina thinks about one of the most popular cooking shows. “Hell’s Kitchen is purely for entertainment,” he claims. Instead, he suggests watching YouTube tutorials that are actually resourceful in teaching the basics. Maybe starting out with Gordon’s 5-star meals for a beginner isn’t the best way to go.

As a chef, Mr. Medina has probably tried every cuisine to ever exist, but when it comes to his favorite, he says he doesn’t have one! He expresses that he doesn’t want to favor and discriminate against any cuisine, so it is best to say that each cuisine is unique in its own way. Who could blame him though? There are over hundreds of different cuisines to try, and all have delectable dishes waiting for Mr. Medina to taste. Speaking of variety, having eggs for breakfast is one of the most common meals in America. Eggs can be prepared in many ways ranging from scrambled, sunny side up, fried, boiled, poached, etc. However, one particular way stands out the most to Mr. Medina. Mr. Medina loves to enjoy his eggs over-easy, where the delicious yolk is still runny and there’s a thin layer of crisp that settles on the edges. Just this description alone declares over-easy as the best method to cook an egg!

There is a lot for one to learn to become a successful chef. Something very important that a chef should keep in mind is the appropriate attire. Not only does wearing the proper attire keep you clean, you also feel and look like a professional. According to Mr. Medina, wearing a chef hat definitely makes you feel ten times cooler and like a pro-chef. With the hat on, it is determined that your dishes will turn out gourmet! In relation to chef hats, we all know the famous Disney-Pixar film, Ratatouille. In this film, the phrase, “Anyone Can Cook” is often mentioned. Mr. Medina interprets this saying to be true, however you have to put forth the work and effort to guarantee success. I hope you were able to learn more about Mr. Medina and his class, and I can ensure that you’ll learn a lot from taking his culinary class!

Photos uploaded and article written by: Christine Le