Recent Glendale High School graduate cooking up New York City success

January 07, 2016

There’s a Glendale High School graduate out there, who just last year won a full scholarship to Monroe College in New York to study culinary arts. Already, she has been noticed for her incredible talent. She was just selected as one of only four culinary students in the northeast United States chosen to compete next month at the American Culinary Federation’s prestigious Northeast Regional Student Chef of the Year competition.

Her name is Denise Aguayo, and her invitation to compete followed a rigorous application process, which required endorsements on her culinary knowledge, skills, and artistry from her instructors at Monroe.

Those recommendations came easily, including one from the dean of Monroe College’s School of Hospitality Management and the Culinary Arts. Indeed, he was the one that first put the bug in her ear to compete, telling her on the return flight from last year’s national competition that she was ready. His confidence so early in her training gave her the boost she needed to apply.

This story, however, is not just one of a local young woman leaving her family in Glendale and moving across the country to pursue a career. It also speaks highly of a relatively new vocational program in the schools in Arizona designed for students just like her. Denise was a founding student of the culinary arts program the year it came to Glendale High, and it was through a statewide competition sponsored by a C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) that she won the scholarship to study at Monroe, which includes its culinary study abroad program in Italy. C-CAP is a national non-profit that works with public schools to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

Although many in Denise’s family work in professional kitchens, none had the opportunity to formally study the culinary arts and, had it not been for C-CAP and the scholarship she won through it to Monroe College, she wouldn’t have, either. She gives great credit to the program for helping her find her professional passion.

“When I was in high school, I enjoyed cooking but didn’t think I would have the opportunity to study it properly at college,” she said. “But Glendale High’s C-CAP program and, of course, Monroe College, changed my future. Once I got into a real, professional kitchen, all possibilities opened up to me. It is a great honor to be selected to compete in the Northeast Regional Student Chef of the Year competition and I look forward to doing what I love best before the judges in February.”

Should Denise win the American Culinary Federation’s Northeast Regional Student Chef of the Year competition, she will advance to the prestigious national event this summer as one of only five student competitors.

It’s worth noting that Monroe College’s Rossella Cangialosi, under whom Denise apprenticed, was chosen to participate as a national finalist last year. Considering the number and caliber of the culinary schools in New York and northeast, it really says something about the caliber of Monroe College’s program to have two students selected to compete two years in a row.

It’s also worth noting that the Monroe culinary competition team was recently named state champions for the second year in a row, so Denise’s selection to compete from among such a talented group of culinary stars-in-training is alone quite a remarkable accomplishment.