Provo Graduate Wins National Scholarship to Pursue Culinary Future | News, Sports, Jobs


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Julian Bernal, right, poses for a photo with celebrity chef Éric Ripert. Bernal is a Provo resident studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal

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Julian Bernal, left, smiles as he poses for a photo with a friend and colleague. Bernal is a Provo resident studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal

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A sautéed fillet of beef, potato gratin, onion rings and broccoli rabe made by Julian Bernal.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal

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Add a pinch of spite, just a pinch of nonchalance and a good dose of talent. Mix them all together and you have Julian Bernal, an 18-year-old from Provo who was recently named a James Beard Foundation National Scholar and scholarship recipient. He is one of 12 winners for the year 2022-2023, representing the Mountains region, and will receive $20,000 for his studies.

Bernal is a sophomore at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after graduating from Provo High School, where he raced across the country. This is where he also picked up one of the first tokens on his shoulder.

“I also participated in a pastry and bakery competition, I got second place with, like, 2 points. So like, whatever,” Bernal recounted. Beyond this competition, the passion for Bernal for cooking classes was the reason he decided to attend a cooking school.

Choosing a cooking school was the easy part, he said, but the idea of ​​leaving Utah was harder. He remembers sitting down with school counselors and, after telling them that culinary school was the goal, they were like, “Oh, well (Utah Valley University) has a really good culinary program.”

There was another chip on his shoulder. “That, like, never sat well with me. I was like, I don’t want to go to a culinary school, I wanted to go to one of the best,” he said. After doing research on his own, Bernal founded the Culinary Institute of America. Even though he appeared in many rankings, it was only after watching a YouTube tour of the school that Bernal made up his mind. He was heading east – maybe.

“Even though I wanted to go, I still didn’t think I was going to go. … In my mind, I was like, ‘I’m going to go to UVU,’” Bernal said. “I didn’t even tell my family that I had applied to go. I applied in secret and when I sent it, I didn’t even say to myself “If I am accepted, I will go”.

While working at BYU, Bernal remembers looking at his phone and seeing the acceptance email — still not enough to make the New York Expedition a reality in his mind. Once Bernal told his family that he had been selected for the school, it became real.

As for the scholarship, Bernal did not apply hoping to pass. In fact, after applying for many more and continuously writing essays, he was beaten. Bernal was not going to apply again until his roommate refused to say what scholarship he was applying for, lest Bernal throw his name in the ring. “I went really crazy,” Bernal said.

Still, Bernal recalled that his roommate had applied for the James Beard Foundation scholarship before and thought that might be the target again. When applying, he had the same feeling as when applying to the Culinary Institute. Sure, that would be cool, but what are the odds of getting it?

“I thought, ‘That’s not going to happen,’ but I applied anyway,” he said. “I actually forgot that I even applied for the scholarship and then last semester I was doing homework – I was a bit stressed because I had a lot of homework to do – and then I received an email that said I had been selected for this.

Still pessimistic, Bernal assumed the email was a scam – so much so that he almost deleted the email without even opening it. Luckily for him, Bernal checked the email, saw it was real, and started “freaking out” in his dorm.

Looking back, Bernal was grateful his roommate was wary of the stock market. If he had been blunt, Bernal said, chances are he wouldn’t even have applied.

According to the foundation, the selection process is broad and inclusive, going beyond the work of a person in the kitchen. “This list of applicants is then forwarded to a scholarship selection committee, made up of chefs and educators, who use a rigorous assessment grid and scoring system to determine the best choices. This heading includes criteria such as education, work experience, volunteerism and public service, letters of recommendation and personal statement. Once each committee member has completed their rubric, the group meets to review and choose the final nominees from the points-based shortlist,” the foundation wrote in an email to the Daily Herald.

Although technically in the second year at the school, the summer semesters are “one of the main semesters”, allowing most students to graduate in three years. Bernal spends his downfall as an intern in Florida, cooking at Trattoria al Forno on Walt Disney World’s BoardWalk.

Even arriving in Florida was a memorable experience. Bernal flew from Provo to New York in early September before heading down the Atlantic coast and finding a must-see location.

“That roadhouse, it was amazing. I’m going to go back when I come back,” he laughed.

With only a few days of actual work under his belt at Disney’s Italian Restaurant, he expects to do a bit of everything before the semester is out. Once he understands the pizza station, Bernal said, they’ll take him to the grill, the jump space, the dessert station and wherever else he can learn.

Yet the passion began nearly 2,500 miles from his temporary kitchen.

He was growing up in California — Bernal’s family moved to Provo when he was 12 — where he fell in love with cooking. Yes, he fell in love with cooking on his own, but he was also inspired when the family sat together and watched “Top Chef.”

It is therefore logical that Bernal’s dream is to participate in “Top Chef” before he turns 30. While winning would be the goal if he succeeded, Bernal is now hoping to find his place in the acclaimed cooking competition.

Maybe one day he would also like to have his own restaurant, but that’s further in the future, not what comes next.

“When I graduate, I want, for the first two years, to go from restaurant to restaurant to gain experience and learn,” he said.


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