Culinary Instructor – Citrus Heights
Chef Conrad Caguimbal has had an interesting career. His journey has been a winding series of successful pit stops, finally landing him at Institute of Technology.
Chef Conrad got his start cooking for his family two decades ago in Monterey Bay, California. After taking a home economics class in high school, Chef Conrad decided that his natural culinary gifts could be the key to a successful future. At the age of 19, he moved to Las Vegas, and enrolled in the Community College of Southern Nevada as a culinary arts student. Conrad’s instructors quickly recognized his great passion and talent, and he was invited to join a competition team that represented the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada.
“After three years of doing competitions as a student, I was recognized for my competition skills. I received gold and silver medals, did a competition in Las Vegas and got best of show in a professional category, all as a student. I have a good track record for competitions,” said Conrad.
After his prodigious three-year run as a competition chef, including a silver medal in the professional category at the 1997 American Culinary Federation National Convention, Conrad graduated and immediately employed his skills at the top restaurants in Las Vegas. He was on staff to open up the five-star restaurant Picasso and spent a few years at the four-star Aqua. He has worked for Chefs Emeril Lagasse, Michael Mina, and Wolfgang Puck.
“All of this was line cooking experience, just getting as much experience as I could, putting in my time,” Conrad said.
After the great experiences that Chef Conrad was able to enjoy under the tutelage of some of the nation’s greatest chefs, he diversified his skills by working as a chef at some smaller restaurants and golf courses and eventually spent some time as a food buyer. His career changes didn’t stop there. He moved into a heralded position as a kitchen manager and corporate chef for Google, cooking on-demand for the employees on the premises for over two years.
Conrad made some of his fondest memories while working his dream job at Google: “There were 12,000 employees at the Google campus. We fed their employees 100-percent. We fed them whatever they wanted, how they wanted, at any time, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was a dream – it was like Disneyland! I was at the peak of my career, being creative and making things using top-dollar ingredients. I was putting truffles and foie gras in my pizzas.”
After spending some time focusing on his family and raising his daughter, Conrad finally decided to return to the culinary world, this time as an executive sous chef in San Jose. His many experiences working in different areas of the kitchen and having a full understanding of the culinary world in general have prepared Conrad for his latest position at Institute of Technology.
Conrad currently teaches classes in presentation, culinary artistry, and fundamentals of basic cooking.
“What led me to Institute of Technology was the opportunity to coach my own team in competitions, and I actually do teach a class that emphasizes competition skills, so I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now,” Conrad said. “To take the steps to teach something that I love and to have that opportunity is really great. Being here now, I’m actually teaching things that I learned in school. It’s interesting to see how it came full circle. Getting back into competition brings back a lot of memories of all the hard work and dedication I put into it. Taking everything that I know and putting it into other people, to students who are eager and have that fire and passion. I’m looking forward to it. I’m very fortunate to see that happen.”
Does Chef Conrad see success for his teams in the future? “I’m working with my team right now, trying to get them prepared and set to go to San Diego. It takes a lot of commitment, and if you zone in on the people who are really dedicated and have the skills to perform, that’s what I’m looking for right now. It gives me the opportunity to be able to compete as a professional. I’m going to show my students that I can still do it as well, that I’m still good at what I do. It’s a golden opportunity.”
It is indeed a golden opportunity for the prodigy-turned-instructor, but the real benefits will go to the culinary students at Institute of Technology at Citrus Heights, especially those who are lucky enough to get the opportunity to hone their competition skills with such a gifted chef.