Provo grad earns national scholarship for pursuing culinary future | News, Sports, Jobs


Julian Bernal, right, poses for a photo with acclaimed chef Éric Ripert. Bernal is a Provo resident and studies at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal


Julian Bernal, left, smiles as he poses for a photo with a friend and colleague. Bernal is a Provo resident and studies at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal


A sautéed beef tenderloin, potato gratin, onion rings and broccoli raven by Julian Bernal.

Courtesy of Julian Bernal

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Add a pinch of defiance, just a pinch of nonchalance and a hefty dose of talent. Mix them all together and you have Julian Bernal, an 18-year-old from Provo who was recently named a James Beard Foundation National Scholar and Fellow. He is one of 12 honorees for the year 2022-2023 representing the mountain region and will receive $20,000 for his schooling.

Bernal is a sophomore at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after graduating from Provo High School where he did cross-country running. There he also collected one of the first chips on his shoulder.

“I also entered a confectionery and baking competition and came in second by about 2 points. Whatever,” said Bernal. Beyond this competition, Bernal’s passion for cooking classes was the reason he decided to attend culinary school.

Choosing a culinary school is the easy part, he said, but the idea of ​​leaving Utah for it is harder. He recalls sitting down with school counselors and after telling them that culinary school was the goal, telling them, “Oh, well (Utah Valley University) has a really good culinary program.”

There was another chip on his shoulder. “It just never really suited me. I thought I didn’t want to go to culinary school, I wanted to go to one of the best,” he said. After doing his own research, Bernal found the Culinary Institute of America. Although it showed up in many rankings, Bernal only made up his mind after watching a YouTube tour of the school. He was headed east – maybe.

“Even though I wanted to go there, I still didn’t think I would go. … In my head I was like, ‘I’m going to go to UVU,'” Bernal said. “I didn’t even tell my family that I applied there. I applied secretly and when I sent it off I didn’t even think, ‘If I’m accepted, I’ll leave.’”

While working at BYU, Bernal recalls checking his phone and seeing the confirmation email—still not enough to make the New York expedition a reality in his mind. When Bernal told his family that he was chosen for the school, things got real.

As for the scholarship, Bernal did not apply without a chance of success. In fact, after applying to many others and writing non-stop essays, he was defeated. Bernal refused to apply again until his roommate refused to say which scholarship he was applying for, fearing Bernal would throw his name in the ring. “I went really crazy,” Bernal said.

Despite this, Bernal remembered his roommate who had previously applied for the James Beard Foundation grant and thought it might be the target again. When applying, he had the same feeling as when applying to the Culinary Institute. Sure it would be cool, but what are the odds of actually getting it?

“I thought, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’ but I applied anyway,” he said. “I actually forgot I was even applying for the scholarship, and then I did homework last semester — I was kind of stressed out because I had a lot of homework to do — and then I got an email saying I stood was chosen for it.”

A pessimist, Bernal assumed the email was a scam – so much so that he nearly deleted the email without even opening it. Luckily for him, Bernal checked the email, saw it was genuine, and started “freaking out” in his dorm room.

Looking back, Bernal was grateful that his roommate was reticent about the grant. Had he been direct, Bernal said, he probably wouldn’t have even applied.

According to the foundation, the selection process is broad and all-encompassing and goes beyond the work in the kitchen. “This shortlist of candidates is then forwarded to a grant selection committee made up of chefs and educators who use a rigorous scoring and scoring system to make the best decisions. This section includes criteria such as education, work experience, voluntary and public service, letters of recommendation and personal statement. Once each committee member has completed their rubric, the group meets to review and select the final candidates from the points-based shortlist,” the foundation wrote in an email to the Daily Herald.

While the summer semesters are technically a sophomore year, they are “one of the major semesters,” resulting in most students graduating in three years. Bernal spends his fall as an intern in Florida, cooking at Trattoria al Forno on Walt Disney World’s BoardWalk.

Even the journey to Florida was an unforgettable experience. Bernal flew back to New York from Provo in early September before driving down the Atlantic Seaboard and finding a must-stop spot.

“That one rest stop, it was amazing. I’ll go back there when I go back,” he laughed.

With only a few days of actual work at Disney’s Italian restaurant, he expects to get a little of everything done before the end of the semester. Once he figures out the pizza station, Bernal said they’ll take him to the grill, the roast room, the dessert station, and any other place he can learn.

Still, the passion began nearly 2,500 miles from his makeshift kitchen.

Growing up in California – Bernal’s family moved to Provo when he was 12 – where he first fell in love with cooking. Yes, he fell in love with cooking himself, but he was also inspired when the family sat down and saw Top Chef.

So it makes sense that Bernal’s dream is to compete in Top Chef before he turns 30. While the goal would be to win if he makes it there, for now, Bernal is just hoping to make his way onto the acclaimed cook-off show.

He might also want to have his own restaurant one day, but that’s further in the future, not what’s next.

“After I graduate, I just want to go from restaurant to restaurant for the first few years, gaining experience and learning,” he said.


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