There’s a new name on the playing field, and this one is from the next generation of chefs! I was so impressed with her as a person, and let me tell you, her passion and skill are far beyond what you would expect of a novice. Let me introduce you to her.

Victoria Sonora is an American Culinary Federation apprentice; she is currently working at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder, CO, and grew up in Longmont. Although her secret obsession for eating Ramen noodles with sour cream & Valentina sauce makes for a great after-work snack, she is an award-winning chef in sanctioned ACF competitions. Her food is years beyond her age. She flew to Austin, Texas, for a competition last year and came back with a bronze medal. For the competition in Austin, she was given a mystery basket to make a three-course meal. Sun chokes, cherry tomatoes, yam noodles, chuck roast, a whole duck, and grapefruits were her road to success. When asked about her experience, she humbly replied, “I never thought I would be involved in competitions, but I have enjoyed competing and learning. From January through March, I drove up to Lone Tree once a week to spend three or four hours in Chef Sever’s kitchen doing practice rounds. We worked through cooking techniques, timelines, organization, sanitation, and everything in between.” Chef Sever is a dear friend of mine. The fact that he gave of his own time to help a young apprentice shows both how talented Victoria is, and what type of food culture we have in Colorado.

Chef Sever isn’t the only mentor that impacted Victoria’s cooking.  In our conversation, Victoria mentioned her mom several times.  She elaborated, “I bring up my mom a lot, because I have never had better food than what my mom cooks. Her chicken cooked in chipotle and mushroom sauce, orange rice and corn, and my aunt’s famous green spaghetti and ham are my favorites.” This passion lives on in what she cooks at home. “Carne Asada, and rice and beans are my household’s go-to Friday night summer dinner. It is almost tradition to break out the grill on the nice summer nights.”

I asked her what Colorado meant to her, and she responded, “Colorado is the best state; maybe I am a little biased because I am a native. My favorite part of being a chef apprentice in Colorado is the farm-to-table movement and having our farmers right in the back yard. I enjoy seeing farmers walk in our kitchen with fresh produce like kale and beets; it is so awesome to be able to support out local farmers. However, I must include that eating peaches and cherries from Palisade in the summer is the absolute best part of being in Colorado.”

From growing up cooking with her mom to working alongside top chefs today, what she loves most about her job is that “every day is a learning opportunity.”  She says, “The more I work and take part in cooking events, the more doors start to open. In my job and being an ACF apprentice, there are endless networking opportunities and there is always something new to learn and do.”  Things have come a long way for her, like myself, starting out as a dishwasher and then working her way up from there. She says, “I have learned a lot. The big changes I see include vegan, gluten, and the dairy-free lifestyles, especially in Boulder. I find myself being more reactive to those needs, and trying to find options that work for people but are delicious.”

As President of the American Culinary Federation Colorado Chefs Association, one of the most important things I do is to ensure the next generation of chef apprentices truly become the new leaders in the community. We are proud to have Victoria represent the young and upcoming chef generation.  As her roots begin to grow, we cannot wait to see what blossoms in her career!

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