Guadalupe Hernandez got her start in the culinary world by bringing her lunch to work. When she first moved to New York from Mexico 23 years ago, her English was not as perfected as it is today. “So, I started from the bottom and took whatever jobs I could get helping out in people’s homes,” the current Rye resident explains.
Soon, her employers started to notice her homemade lunches were not ordinary brown-bag sandwiches but flavorful, fresh, and delicious meals made from recipes she learned from her mother. Eventually, Hernandez started cooking for her employers and became a personal chef. “As a private chef, I used whatever ingredients were available and fresh and always improvised the menus,” she says.
After seeing the success that stemmed from her raw talent, Hernandez decided to hone her skills by enrolling in Kingsborough Community College’s hospitality and culinary programs. Once she graduated, it was a struggle to find work at a restaurant without formal experience, but she landed an internship in Chelsea Market, which then led to a job at Union Square Hospitality Group’s popular restaurant, Marta. This past May, she left her position there to embark on a career-making opportunity afforded by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Hernandez is one of 21 women selected for the James Beard Foundation Women in Culinary Leadership Grant (WCLG), which is part of an accelerated, learning-by-doing mentorship program that gives women with a minimum of two years of professional hospitality or culinary experience the chance to work with top industry leaders and build in-depth skills in the kitchen, in restaurant management, or in both areas. “I am very honored to be selected. I want to learn as much as I can,” Hernandez says. “I am amazed at what is happening in my life.”
|Chef April Bloomfield will mentor Hernandez (seen here, sharpening her knives) at The Spotted Pig.
Photo credit Melanie Dunea
Hernandez will spend her 12-month program at The Spotted Pig in Manhattan’s West Village working with her mentor, Chef April Bloomfield. Bloomfield, who holds a Michelin star at the Spotted Pig and at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, is also a past James Beard grant winner.
“We believe Guadalupe has been selected because her work ethic and passion stood out in her application essay and reference letters,” says Shelley Menaged, special projects and student programs manager at The James Beard Foundation. “It was clear she was very interested in learning the ins and outs of the culinary business from all aspects. We’re thrilled she’ll be participating in a 12-month back-of-house program with James Beard Award Winner April Bloomfield and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes in the future.”