Gilbert Reyes, chef de cuisine of CUMC’s Faculty Club, recently competed in the annual Rapid Fire Challenge at the New York Restaurant Show. During the challenge, Chef Reyes and two other chefs had 30 minutes to prepare their best appetizer in front of a live audience.
“I often hear that university or hospital kitchens are considered second-class; I want to prove it wrong,” says Chef Reyes, who served his dish of Kobe beef and langoustine along with vegetables and edible flowers; the ingredients featured in the appetizer are occasionally served at the Faculty Club.
After coming to the United States at the age of 18, Chef Reyes was first interested in a career in architecture. After graduating high school, he enrolled in a machine drafting course at Wentworth Institute of Technology, taking classes in the morning and working in the evenings.
“I found my career path while working as a dishwasher at the Marriott hotel,” he says. “I fell in love with the art of cooking. I was eager to learn and very proactive.”
Chef Reyes’s passion to cook led him to new roles within the kitchen department and later to other Marriott hotels in New York and Orlando. After working in various restaurants in New York, including Tavern on the Green and the New York Palace hotel, Chef Reyes started working as a sous chef at the Faculty Club in 2009 and was promoted to chef de cuisine a year later.
“Columbia allows me to showcase my cooking abilities, and I enjoy a rare combination of creative freedom and time with family,” he says. “I plan to stay at Columbia until I retire.”