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Santa Fe, New Mexico

A Passion for Cooking Becomes a Successful Career

Santa Fe YouthBuild Graduate Joseph Salazar completed the YouthBuild program five years ago. Now he’s thriving in the high-demand field of culinary arts.

Person in apron standing over large pots of food on stove.

When Joseph was 18 and living in Albuquerque, school wasn’t going so well. His cousin — who graduated from Santa Fe YouthBuild — recommended YouthBuild, telling him that he could get job experience and get a stipend while working to complete his GED.

Joseph started the YouthBuild program and began vocational training in construction, helping to build three houses with YouthWorks and Habitat for Humanity. During his time in YouthBuild, Joseph also spent time in the YouthWorks Kitchen in the Culinary program as a way to try new experiences. At YouthBuild, he developed an interest in cooking and is now working full-time with YouthWorks Culinary Arts and Catering Program as Kitchen Manager, helping to provide training for new groups of YouthBuild participants.

“I hadn’t even cooked much before starting the program, but I wanted to get as many tools in my belt, or herbs in my basket, as possible,” said Joseph. “I am always open to trying new experiences and cooking has become a great passion for me.”

Being part of the YouthBuild program not only inspired in Joseph a love of cooking, but it also helped to jumpstart his career. He made many connections and gained work experience.  He notes that getting connected to YouthBuild helped him get his foot in the door and gave him a solid foundation for his future. 

“I’ve only been in the culinary arts world a few years, and I am working as kitchen manager managing crews, helping to teach new YouthBuild program participants, making recipes, giving back to the community, and using my creativity to create my own art,” said Joseph.

Now, Joseph will meet young people in Santa Fe who are struggling in the public school system or having a difficult time with education in general. He always recommends the YouthWorks or YouthBuild programs to them. 

“When I was in YouthBuild, I really appreciated the one-on-one instruction that helped me stay focused and complete my GED in four months,” says Joseph. “I also learned a lot through the connections I’ve made since starting with Santa Fe YouthBuild. I met renowned chefs who have taught me a lot of what I know and use in my work today.”

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