Fun, Engaging, Delicious, Exciting, Rewarding
Jr. Chef Central really lived up to its mission statement. I started with Karla a summer before Jr. Chef
Central was founded. I remember learning how to bake cookies with her in a demo kitchen at a local
grocery store. Just that little bit opened my eyes in to the world of the culinary arts. The next summer
my mother entered me into the JCC program.
The program that Karla founded changed my view of food over the next 7 years. JCC showed me how
food gets from the farm to the table and every step that is in-between, the difference a simple dietary
change can make for our lifestyles, how family and friends can be gathered around by food and make a
day of memories, tasting different cuisines, and learning all the different flavor pallets each culture can
How did the program impact the way you connect with food today?
JCC really helped me to explore and try new things that I thought I’d never try. This can range from a
simple vegetable to trying more exotic items such as deer, rabbit, or duck. It gave me the foundation to
experiment and change a recipe. To alter the ingredients and introduce fusion cuisine. The best example
of what I learned would be adding some Asian ingredients into a Mexican dish. The melody of flavors in
the dishes only grew. Sometimes it would work, and sometimes it would not, but that’s the beauty of
exploring new things.
What do you remember most?
The cooking skills and knife techniques. To be able to use a variety of kitchen gadgets at home with no
worries from my mother as a child. She was often impressed that I’d be able to make bread or
homemade pasta from scratch at home. Or make a desert that would taste so much better than
something store bought.
What is your fondest memory?
The fondest memory would be the classes that JCC offered. That part of the day was always exciting. I’ve
made friends in that class that I still keep in contact with 12 years later. Our friendship grew because of
the food we cooked when we worked together. The field trips of learning how food gets to our table. All
of it was so much fun for me during summer because I got to cook the food, and then eat it!
What skill, cooking technique or ‘trick’ did you learn from the program that you still use today?
The “claw”. Using my hand as a claw when cutting up any item has saved the tips of my fingers (and
thumb!!) more times than I can count. When you are in a rush to make an item for a family, guest, or
friend, being safe is the most important part.
Also meeting Guy Fieri at the state capital for the farm to fork capital in Sacramento was really cool! Guy
even signed my chefs jacket!
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
That rushing isn’t always the best way to approach a situation. It’s ok to mess up and start over. The
food you make doesn’t have to be prefect the first time you make it. Just get the hang of the recipe and
master it over time. Then when you feel comfortable, try something new! Change the flavors, add more
veggies or less! It’s up to you in the end as you’re the Chef.
I would recommend the program to anyone that has a child or teenager that is interested in cooking. It’s
important that they have the necessary skills to be able to cook. We’ve come into a society that would
rather order something then spend the time to make it at home. To be able to cook amazing food and
spend time with family/friends is one of the best ways to make memories.
With Jr.Chef Central being able to see all the steps from farm to fork was eye opening to me. The
kitchen and knife skills that I’ve learned can be used for the rest of my life, but also it has helped me
teach others as well!
Master Jr. Chef Kevin Vargas spent 7 years in the Jr. Chef Program, followed by 6 years as a JCC
instructor. He is passionate about the food service industry.