New York targets the struggling: the struggling artist, the struggling musician, and even, the struggling chef. Kala Coleman, a twenty-year-old culinary student from St. Louis, Mo, is no exception. She has one goal in mind: working with food and being successful at it. It hasn’t been an easy journey for her, however. Yet, with the motivation to rise out of her past, and the passion to work in the kitchen, Coleman stands as an example for what many seem to take for granted these days: achieving success by working harder than everyone else around you.
Coleman, a sophomore Culinary Nutrition major at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., hopes to pack her bags and head for New York upon graduation. What sounds like a typical dream for many hoping to “make it big,” Coleman sees as necessary. “New York is fast paced, and so is the kitchen. That’s what I want to do. Work fast and get good money doing it.” It is a bold goal for one who wants to work in the culinary industry, with the average chef making anywhere from $57,471-$87, 563 annually, according www.allculinaryschools.com.
Her love for cooking stemmed from her childhood. She started cooking with her grandmother when she was younger, and since then, cooking has always been close to her heart. She knew upon high school graduation, she was going to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Her motivation to work in food has grown stronger since she’s been in college. “School is tough,” she says. Classes run in 9-day sessions, so students have to learn fast. They work in three trimesters: the first is comprised of lab classes, the second of academic courses, and the last can be lab classes or a student can choose an internship.
Coleman, currently in the third part of her trimester and involved in an internal internship, is working hard to get on-hands experience. “I’m a prep cook for a place called Red Sauce at the school. So I’m learning pretty well,” she says.
Lately, however, she has been looking more into athletic performance. In this field, she will work with helping athletes enhance their performance through nutrition. She will work with members of a sports team, cooking for them and helping with their all-around diet. She could see herself working with anyone from the New York Giants to the New Jersey Jets. “I could still cook, but I could make a lot more money,” Coleman giggles.
Yet, her ultimate goal is neither working in a restaurant nor working in athletic performance. She plans to open her own non-profit nutrition organization for children. In this organization, she plans to teach kids how to choose healthier options, and to provide them with the necessary tools to do so. This project hits close to home for her. “Growing up, I didn’t really eat healthy. It’s hard, you know. Especially when all you have is food stamps and then Doritos and Cheetos in your school vending machine,” she says somberly. No one taught her about nutrition, so she feels strongly that eating healthy should start with children.
Growing up in a single-parent household in the crime-ridden streets of St. Louis, Mo., Coleman had to work twice as hard to make it out of the city. “I wanted to get as far away as I could,” she says. “Because I knew if I didn’t get out now, I’d be stuck there forever.” So, she worked continuously in high school to make good enough grades to be able to pursue what she loves. “I can’t see myself doing anything else besides cooking,” she says.
In regard to what her favorite dishes are to make, her voice lights up with excitement. “Chicken and peach cobbler!” she says delightfully. “Those are definitely my favorite things to cook.
Coleman is the essence of what it takes to be successful. One has to have a passion for what they are pursuing, and the determination to beat the odds working against you. She is destined to make a name for herself in the culinary industry, and whatever road she takes, she’ll be sure to have a delicious peach cobbler to take with her.