Kyle discovered his calling in the kitchen. “I was just trying to find a craft in life, and then I realized it. I’ve been working in kitchens for so long, I might as well take it as far as I can. That’s what started the journey.” And he’s already moved all the way from the dish pit to Disney!
“I used to think that you can make money doing anything.” In high school and his early 20s, Kyle worked in national chain restaurants busing tables or washing dishes, but he noticed that the cooks and chefs were having a lot more fun. Kyle thought, “I really need to get onto the line.”
Once he did, Kyle discovered he had a real talent for cooking. Wherever he worked, “I really got behind the chefs and learned to work with food.” He worked his way up the culinary ladder, being promoted to more responsible jobs in bigger restaurants. “I figured I should go as far as I could with my culinary sense.”
But “a lot of food we have around here is Americanized, and I really just wanted to learn to be true to the cuisines.” As a sous chef at a fine-dining trattoria known for its respected executive chef and rustic Italian cuisine, “I decided to enroll myself into culinary school.”
“I wanted to learn to cook it all myself, to cook authentically.”
At ECPI, Kyle began the first of two 15-month culinary arts studies he would complete. He excelled in his hands-on classes, which covered everything from knife cuts to nutrition, broths to butchery, meat curing to wine pairings, and various international flavor profiles. He also thrived in his externship at Esoteric, an acclaimed farm-to-table gastropub at the Oceanfront. In his two years under the executive chef’s mentorship, Kyle mastered the things he was taught in school and made everything from scratch. “It’s been a big part of my experience: a place to understand the kitchen, tune up my skills, and get better.”
In school and trying to work as much as he could, “by the time the next payday came, I had already exhausted all my money.” By summer 2022, rising costs made it impossible for Kyle to keep his apartment. He asked his mom for advice. She recommended that he check out The Union Mission.
“I didn’t think I would end up in a place like this”—a homeless shelter—“but then I didn’t know that this place offered so many benefits!” As part of the David Development Program for young men, “it was really refreshing to stay for free. I could just save up and get back on track. That helped me a lot!” Living at the Mission also enabled Kyle, now 29, to earn not just his diploma, but his culinary certificate and his A.A.S. in culinary arts from ECPI.
In January, Kyle moved to Orlando, Fla., to join the prestigious Disney Culinary Program. His ECPI career counselor recommended him for the opportunity to spend six months to a year cooking for the Disney resorts. Kyle impressed the interviewer, and it felt good to be recruited.
“They only take but so many people. I am lucky to be one of the ones.”
He’ll be working in the restaurants within the Animal Kingdom theme park. “They have some great chefs that I can learn from! I just want to keep growing.”
Kyle’s dream is to start his own culinary service as a personal chef. “It’s a pretty good living.” But he knows he may need to work in more restaurants first to perfect his culinary art. “I’m still young, though, so I still have a lot to learn. I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey.”
That goes for Kyle’s faith, too. His mom and sister encourage him to commit his life to Christ, and “a lot of that resonates with me,” but “I’m still working it out.” Still, he concedes that “a lot of things are falling into place,” and he knows it cannot be a coincidence.
“Some force is definitely guiding me!”
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