A Running Start to a Culinary Future

Friday, February 21, 2020

When Valentine Quintana learned he was the first Running Start student to enroll in SPSCC’s Culinary Arts program, he was surprised. “It’s such an amazing opportunity that you’d think more people would take it,” he said.

The 16-year-old from Centralia High School just completed his first quarter at SPSCC, where he spent most of his time doing food prep and production work. He documents some of what he’s learning—including entrees he plates for SPSCC’s Percival Restaurant—with drool-worthy Instagram posts (@coolcookingwithval).

Besides working in the campus restaurant, Valentine worked on food production for The Experience, the SPSCC Foundation's annual fundraiser this past October. “It was intense, but fun, and you’re so proud of yourself afterwards,” he recalled of working the event.

Despite being the youngest person in the SPSCC kitchen, it’s not Valentine’s first foray into cooking. He considers himself a huge “foodie”. He prepared food with his grandma during his childhood and grew up watching TV cooking shows. He learned what it’s like to cook outside of the home last summer when he took a culinary class at New Market Skills Center. That experience solidified his decision to pursue a career in the industry.

So far, taking his passion for food and putting it into action has been one of his favorite things about the Culinary Arts program at SPSCC. “You get to have a lot of creativity and you get to be proud of your work in the kitchen. Personally, when people eat and love my food, it’s the best thing.”

He decided Running Start would be a good fit after watching his older brother graduate with a degree from Centralia College through Running Start. “I knew if my brother could do it, then I could do it,” he said.

Having support is important to him, and while his parents didn’t at-tend college, Valentine is thankful his family proudly backs his ambitions. “As long as you have a support system, it makes life so much easier.”

Enrolling full-time through the Running Start program was a way for him to realize his goals sooner. “Getting my AA and hopefully transferring to get a bachelor’s will give me the knowledge and experience in the field. Plus, it’ll give me a two year head start on my career.”

Although he’s just started in the Culinary Arts program, he knows where he wants to go next.

“Life’s an adventure, and it takes me wherever it decides to take me, but I’d like to work in a steakhouse type environment.” At the top of his goals is becoming a head chef, but he’s open to how—and when—he gets there.

Culinary Arts student Valentine Quintana in the kitchen at SPSCC
16-year-old student Valentine Quintana is the first Running Start to enroll in SPSCC's Culinary Arts program.