Culinary Student Winner: Peter S. Del Cotto

Peter S. Del Cotto

Trocaire College Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality and Business


383 Votes

Peter is the first of two winners of our contest. Below you can find his contest entry essay, the recipe he submitted, and our interview Q&A. Bon Appétit!

Why I deserve to go to the NRA: 

I deserve to go to the NRA show because I want to improve my skills and serve my community by opening a restaurant in my home town. The NRA show will not only broaden my knowledge base but make me a better person, chef and family man. I have traveled all over the world serving our country and want to give back to those who supported me throughout my life such as the local community, parents, family, friends, fellow colleagues, and certainly not least, my professors. I am currently studying for my degree in Hospitality Management and have a 4.0 GPA. Unfortunately, I am also a victim of corporate downsizing and unemployed. Due to the lifestyle change, the decision was made to totally retrain into a different industry and go into business for myself and my family. The trip to the NRA show allows me to get immersed into the industry and get a restaurant and culinary world view, Not to mention meet the great people of the industry! Please consider my essay for the culinary student award. My family and I would be forever grateful to Chef and the NRA. As an added bonus, I am submitting a picture of me in one of your handsome embroidered chefs coats while I’m in action in our kitchen at home.
Best regards.
Peter S. Del Cotto

My Recipe:

Simple Marinara Sauce:

2 #10 (6lb) cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce
2 6 oz Hunts Tomato Paste
1 Large Yellow Onion or Sweet Onion Small Dice
6 Large Cloves Garlic (Minced)
1 Tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper                             
2 Tbsp Salt, then salt to taste
2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning or equivalent amounts of basil, thyme, dried parsley and oregano
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 Fresh Basil Leaves (tear into fine pieces)
1/4 Cup Grated Parm/Regg Cheese

Cooking Directions:

In large sauce or stock pot over med heat:
Add olive oil and once heated, add onions and salt, sweat onions for 8 minutes stirring occasionally then add garlic, dried spices and sweat for another two minutes.
When finished, lower heat to med low and add tomato paste, stir frequently until spices and onions are incorporated into the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Then add tomato sauce and stir to incorporate ingredients.
Add Fresh Basil.
Bring sauce to a simmer slowly, stir occasionally.
Let cook 15 min at reduced heat med low to low
Add cheese and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Note: Please make sure that the heat is not too high or you will ‘scorch’ the sauce. An evil that every Grandma tells you to avoid! However, if it does scorch, do not scrape it off of the bottom of the pan, transfer the remainder of the sauce to another pan/pot and stir on! Leave the scorched pan to soak and have the kids attack it when done with dinner… 🙂

The Interview:

1.        How does it feel to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 NRA Show?

Well, I have to admit, pretty darn good! When I received the notification that I won, I was elated beyond belief, I couldn’t wait to post the good news to my family and friends. In addition, to have an all-expense paid trip is a dream of a lifetime that became a reality.

2.        What do you plan on getting out of your trip to the NRA?

After graduating, I am opening my own restaurant. The NRA show has every exhibitor in the industry available to meet with and consult. I am sure I will walk out of the NRA show a well-educated man on the restaurant biz. In addition, I hope to network with other leaders in the industry and utilize their experiences to mold my restaurant.

3.        How did you go about getting all of those votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc.)?

                As part of my degree program, students must take a sales and marketing course. Last semester, we covered the impacts of social media and their use in the hospitality industry. Come to find out, the impacts were huge and through their use, saved many restaurants during the economic downturn. When the contest started, I fired up my laptop and started an event on my Facebook page. I individually messaged the event to my 290 friends and asked them to forward the event to their friends. In addition, I contacted Trocaire College’s web and social media director, Jackie Bryant and asked if she could get the college involved and support me in the contest. Other items that helped were writing a press release and sending it out to the local media and an occasional ‘tweet’ on Twitter.

4.       Why did you want to become a chef?

Having traveled all over the world while serving in the military, I have experienced the tastes and smell of many cultures’ foods. Food tells a certain story about the people and their environment. I want to become a chef because I want to share my experiences in other cuisines besides classical American by highlighting popular dishes of each respective culture.

5.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

For me, I wear a white, basic, poly-cotton blend, long sleeve chef coat. Some of the reasons for this choice are that the coat is light and breathes well, plus it washes well and I do not have to iron it. 🙂

6.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

Yes, we dine out at least two times a week. It can be anything from the local pizza joint    to casual fine dining at a local independently owned restaurant.

7.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

                Yes, I have been doing a lot of research on upcoming food trends and utilizing the NRA’s website to gather my information. Interestingly, there are many trends that are in high demand such as, tapas, Asian, food trucks, affordable entrees with reduced portion sizes and reduced priced apps during the week.

8.       What are your future plans, once you become a full-fledged professional Chef?

                After working the line in the restaurant, I would like to eventually take the Executive chef’s position with the ability later on to manage the business entirely. If business is good, I may just open another restaurant in another part of the U.S.

9.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

Start it early in life! The restaurant business is demanding and there are long hours in the kitchen. By starting earlier, not only do you gain the fundamental skills to base your experiences on but also the ability to cope well under pressure and fatigue.

10.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into culinary school?

You must ask yourself several questions before even thinking about culinary school:

  1. Do I like people? Am I independent or do I work well with others?
  2. Do I like to work long hours? Weekends? Holidays?
  3. Do I take directions well and have the ability to produce what is asked of me?
  4. Am I doing this for the money or the love of the career?
  5. If I own my restaurant, am I willing to work without getting a paycheck every week?
  6. Can I accept constructive criticism or feedback from fellow co-workers, managers, and customers?

If you answered positively to the questions, you are ready to investigate and follow your culinary dream. If not, look into other aspects of the industry such as, lodging, cruise lines, and air transportation. There is a variety of careers within the hospitality industry to choose from.

Congratulations again, Peter, and remember to come see us at the show at Booth #1904!

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  1. Hospitality Student Wins Educational Trip of a Lifetime « Official Trocaire College Blog - August 30, 2011

    […] prize, students were asked to create a profile and submit a recipe showing off cooking skills.  Peter submitted his profile entry with a “Simple Marinara Sauce” […]

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