Welcome to the fourth and final installment of our Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. This episode we’ll be focusing on acclaimed chef Kelvin Fernandez.
The New York-based chef has been serving up delectable dishes for twenty years, though his entry into the culinary world came as a surprise. In high school, Kelvin was a student athlete who never thought twice about the prospect of cooking. His girlfriend at the time supported him by attending every one of his games. In return, she wanted him to show the same support for her interests, specifically cooking.
Chef Kelvin was hesitant at first, but the pair eventually enrolled in a culinary class with C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program). The program would later give the 16-year-old cook a full scholarship to The Culinary Institute of America, where Kelvin would hone his blossoming skills.
As a young chef, Kelvin’s culinary inspiration came from his parents’ food. His mother would expertly prepare classic Dominican dishes such as pollo guisado, arroz blanco, and mangú. French, American, and Asian dishes emerged courtesy of Kelvin’s father, a professional chef himself. His father’s dishes opened Kelvin’s eyes to flavors outside of the Dominican culture.
Kelvin started his career cooking French, Italian, and American dishes, but he never forgot his roots. Today, the chef describes his cuisine as fusion, taking everything that he has learned along the way and giving it a Latin twist.
In 2011, Kelvin’s food was taken from the plate to the screen when he earned a spot competing on Food Network’s “Chopped.” The young chef managed to finish as a runner-up on the show despite being unable to taste his food due to a shellfish allergy. Kelvin learned a lot from cooking on “Chopped,” namely time efficiency. He did not realize how quickly 20 minutes goes by, but learned that you can accomplish a lot in that time through multitasking.
Chef Kelvin would get a chance to show what he had learned on “Chopped” while competing on “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2015. The then-29-year-old chef would go on to defeat Flay with his signature award-winning arepas. Fernandez hopes to have his own culinary show in the future, and already has a name picked out. “…It’d be called ‘Kelvin’s Kitchen,’ and it would be full of amazing times, great music, great vibes, and great food,” he says. In addition, the chef has aspirations of writing a cookbook and inspiring the next generation of chefs.
Chef Kelvin’s Hispanic heritage bleeds into every aspect of his life, not just his food. This is most evident in his positive outlook, which he cites as a major key to his success. He believes that if you greet someone with a smile, you’ll receive that same energy back. “Attitude determines altitude,” he says.