South Texas College culinary arts student Daniela Gonzalez Garcia was crowned the “Valley’s Next Famous Chef” late November after winning a reality cooking competition broadcast and partially-sponsored by KVEO News Center 23.
The competition featured amateur cooks from around the Rio Grande Valley that had to prepare a meal within an hour using a main ingredient. The competition was judged by a panel of professional chefs from the Valley.
For the final battle, Gonzalez Garcia gave the judges a tour of Italy through a dish of shrimp carbornara, a Capri salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and tiramisu inspired by her trip to Venice.
Gonzalez Garcia received a three-night culinary and cultural escape to New York City which included airfare for two, hotel, hands-on cooking classes, food tours, fine-dining and a Broadway experience.
“I can’t describe how it felt to win,” said Gonzalez Garcia. “It was just a relief. I was nervous because I cut my thumb. I kept working hard and it paid off.”
The STC culinary arts student is originally from Reynosa and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley for 10 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2012, and is currently pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in culinary arts from STC.
“I’ve been cooking since I was eight,” she said. “When I was little, we used to go to Guadalajara every summer. While my cousins were playing, I was cooking with my aunt. Little by little, I started getting better because I would experiment with new things. Studying abroad in Germany, I explored various cultures and flavors around Europe.”
Gonzalez Garcia plans to earn a master’s degree in culinary arts and gain more experience in the restaurant industry through an internship program. Ultimately, she dreams of combining her experience in cooking with her knowledge of business to open up her own restaurant in Texas.
The “Valley’s Next Famous Chef” is a four-week long cooking competition sponsored by KVEO News Center 23, Shah Eye Center, and South Texas College. It is hosted by Laura-Erika Garcia and Albert Sanchez. The panel of local judges included Chef Jessica Delgado of House, Wine & Bistro, Chef James Canter of Alhambra, Chef Juliana Macias of Roosevelt’s at Seven, Chef Jennifer Guerra of South Texas College, and Chef Jimmy Santiago of the Club at Cimarron.