RANDOLPH TWP. – Elder Simon Arango thrived in the high school culinary arts program, which opened many doors for him that he can potentially walk through in the fall.
Randolph High School’s culinary arts program is designed to introduce students to key concepts and methods in the culinary arts and hospitality industry, according to District K-12.
Students are introduced to food safety and cooking as well as nutrition and basic food preparation through cooking demonstrations. As they progress and take additional courses, students have the opportunity to deepen their fundamental knowledge by taking their acquired experiences to the next level of understanding.
They can participate in a classroom environment inspired by the restaurant industry, with an emphasis on food preparation, nutritional science, and advanced cooking methodologies. Most importantly, according to the district, students gain insight into professionalism in the culinary industry as well as career opportunities in the culinary arts.
Arango is just one of the culinary arts program‘s many success stories.
In recent months, he has received several scholarship opportunities totaling over $45,000 from Johnson and Wales as well as the Monroe Campus of the Culinary Institute of New York. He was also named “Student Volunteer of the Year” by the Randolph Education Foundation, receiving a $1,000 scholarship.
He intends to study in one of these two institutions with the dream and goal of becoming a professional chef.
“I first became interested in the culinary arts when I was little and watched my grandmother cook. When I tasted her food, I knew there was a lot of love in it. that she was cooking,” he said.
“The simple meals she cooked, including sudado de pollo or sancocho, were often among her best recipes. She also made great pastries and her food always had great flavor. She started teaching me cooking when I was about 5 or 6 years old,” he says.
“During my second year of high school, I started taking culinary arts classes with chef (Thomas) Povinelli who is my mentor. Although he is a teacher, Chef is like a father figure to me. I really never had a father figure in my life, and he supported me and gave me advice in difficult times,” Arango said.
“I learned so many good lessons in his classes, including always doing your best when you do something and seeing that food has limitless possibilities. Plus, I also learned that you should always follow his heart and make sure you do what you love.”
Arango has many options to consider for his graduate projects and this is a result of both his coursework as well as the competitions he participated in during his time at Randolph High School. With the support of Chef Povinelli, he participated in competitions such as “America’s Best High School Chef” placing fourth overall at this event held at the Monroe Campus of the Culinary Institute of New York.
He is currently training for an upcoming state level show which will take place in May in Newark. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for this opportunity.
Chief Povinelli says he’s incredibly excited for the next chapter of Arango’s journey when he graduates from the district.
“I have been a teacher in the district for 3 and a half years. Simon enrolled in culinary arts my first and second year, then approached me about starting a cooking club to give students the opportunity to relax and cook after a busy day of schoolwork,” said Chief Povinelli. “His passion for the culinary arts industry is something that could never be taught. He was sharpened in his blood. Simon’s journey from our first year to now is an incredible story,” he said.
“I am proud to be part of this young man’s journey through the world of culinary arts. He has been a special part of this program at RHS and it will only get better. Look out Chef Gordon Ramsey, meet Simon Arango .”
Arango said he can’t wait to go to cooking school and see the world. He has a flair for international cuisine and wants to explore a range of flavors and spices. In particular, he likes Asian cuisine, especially sushi and ramen.
He said he hoped to explore the making of Indian cuisine which, using spices, he described as “a chef’s paradise”.
One of the benefits of a culinary arts education is not just learning how to make food, but also having the ability to eat it.
“Eating what you’ve done through your hard work, whether it took 30 minutes or 30 hours, is exciting. You can finally see and taste what you’ve worked hard on during this time,” he said. .
“With a background in culinary arts, I look forward to traveling the world. I want to leave my mark there and discover unknown flavors. This life has shown me that anything is possible if you want it, and I’ve learned so much.