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Teen wins free tuition in culinary contest

Sade Aguila of Cambria Heights won Monroe College's America's Best High School Chef competition, earning her a full scholarship to the school. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
By Howard Koplowitz

A Cambria Heights teen cooked her way to a free scholarship at Monroe College after winning the New Rochelle school’s America’s Best High School Chef Competition.

Sade Aguila, a 17-year-old senior at the Food and Finance HS in Manhattan, served up stuffed chicken with goat cheese and mushrooms; demi glace, a French gravy; roasted potatoes and haricot verts, French green beans, to win the culinary division contest, which featured 10 participants.

“I felt a great sense of accomplishment because it was a lot of hard work put into it,” Sade said of the contest.

Sade’s scholarship includes free entry to Monroe College’s Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program and an internship in Italy after her second year at the school.

Since she was 8 years old, Sade has always wanted to become a cook, getting her inspiration from watching the Food Network and putting her own twist on recipes she saw on the channel’s cooking shows, like “Iron Chef.”

“When I got old enough to use the stove, that’s where it started,” she said.

Sade said she enjoys how her cooking united her family.

“When I was younger, it brought my family together and I liked being in the kitchen with everyone,” she said.

After her parents divorced, Sade said her cooking “helped us again to just get closer and I enjoy making my family happy.”

Sade’s mother, Julissa Ramos, said she first encouraged her daughter to follow in her footsteps as a nurse and have a career in the medical field, but she realized how much Sade wanted to cook after she entered high school.

“I’m so proud of her. She’s accomplished so much,” Ramos said. “I didn’t understand how serious she was until she went to high school. When I saw her in her element [at the competition], I was so amazed and so impressed by her performance. She made me very proud. I think she’ll be an excellent role model for her younger siblings.”

Sade said her love for cooking meant her Christmas presents were not things the average girl would want.

“I wasn’t the ordinary girl getting gift cards,” she said. “I got my first mixer to make cupcakes, cookie cutters, scales, cookbooks, chef attire.”

Sade already has nine college credits in food service management and has a food handler’s license.

“Being in the high school prepared me a lot,” she said, noting she interned at the Food Network for five months this year and worked at Dos Caminos, a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan.

Sade, who can dish up anything from guacamole and sushi to curry and Italian food, said she hopes to one day open her own restaurant after graduating from Monroe and getting her master’s in nutrition.

“I like different cuisines, so Mexican, Indian, Asian-inspired food that’s healthy,” she said. “Any ingredient that I’m inspired by, that’s how I cook. If I’m in the mood for something, I have to make it.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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