By Tim Wheeler
At Grand Rapids Community College, there are many different types of students on campus. There is, however, a common thread that bonds students: determination and passion. 2012 GRCC Graduate Ramon Silguero, 30, is no exception.
Silguero attended GRCC with the intention of working toward a degree in graphic design. This was his plan until he received the opportunity to do a work study washing dishes for the culinary program. This work study would transform his life path completely.
This work study led to him hearing of a job at the Grand Woods Lounge from a friend, which he decided to pursue.
“I signed up only a year after that for the culinary program,” said Silguero. His change from graphic design to culinary arts was not one he had foreseen.
“For me, I always enjoyed cooking,” Silguero said, “but it wasn’t anything I ever thought I would do. Really, I just fell into it by just working my way up after someone didn’t show up for work and they told me ‘Hey, you are on salads today.’”
Silguero said that his attitude toward it was just thinking it was something new and cool to try out.
GRCC prepared Silguero well for a career in Culinary Arts, and he would be the first to affirm this. Chef Angus Campbell, who taught in the Secchia Institute for 27 years and has been a chef for 45 years, motivated Silguero to continue working toward a degree in Culinary Arts and even gave him an opportunity for an internship in Scotland at one of the restaurants within Saint Andrew’s golf course.
“He was quite a shy boy when he first came to us and he has developed into a very powerful young man,” Campbell said.
Before this, Silguero had worked as a line cook at the Grand Woods Lounge and at Derby Station in East Grand Rapids. This was a “crazy and exciting” opportunity for Silguero who still looks back on the chance as a great blessing.
After six months in Scotland, Silguero helped run Brandywine in Grand Rapids before taking some time off working at a farm in Allendale. When asked about why he decided to step away from culinary arts for a few years, Silguero said that he wanted to “just see everything.”
He knew that working in other various fields would only give him better life experience, something GRCC taught him.
“I also worked for a fish market in downtown Grand Rapids so that I could be well rounded in the end,” Silguero said.
After this, he returned to the culinary world and worked for Nantucket Bakery and Vandermill in Grand Rapids.
Currently, Silguero works as the Sous Chef at MeXo on Fulton Street, just south of GRCC’s campus. Silguero likes being close to his roots, where he can continue to have a relationship with his old teachers.
“I have been at MeXo for one-and-a-half years… since they opened” Silguero said.
Silguero enjoys his work as the Sous Chef at MeXo. He explained that he is essentially third in command behind the Head Chef and Chef de Cuisine.
“The Sous Chef is generally in charge of training, scheduling, and behind the scenes work,” Silguero said, “It is a good position to be in to see all the inner workings of a restaurant.”
He did not begin as the Sous Chef at MeXo. Silguero, as he has for most of his life, put his head down and worked hard for this position.
“I was hired as a line cook and was promoted up. I am the third Sous Chef since MeXo opened a year and a half ago,” Silguero said.
Being there since the beginning, Silguero is proud of his time at MeXo. He has been given great opportunities from GRCC to be successful here in Grand Rapids.
Silguero was excited to work for MeXo, “a meso-american styled restaurant,” because it spoke to his roots as a Mexican-American.
“I tried for a while to mimic what I learned about French cuisine, but my dad is from Mexico and he helped me see that Mexican food could be more,” Silguero said, “there is a potential to elevate Mexican food at MeXo.”
But for the future, he is excited to make new foods in new cities. Silguero plans on moving in just a few weeks time to “either New York or Texas.”
“I am from Tenessee but I just thought that I have already lived there and I want to check some new places out” Silguero said, accenting his thirst for adventure.
Silguero attributes much of his success to his time at the Secchia Institute at GRCC.
When reminiscing of meeting Silgeruo, Chef Campbell said, “I particularly noted how he has carried the traits he picked up in the kitchen such as discipline, forthrightness, calm and determination with him into a management position.”
Not only Chef Angus but also Chef Kevin Dunn. Silguero said, “Chef Dunn [a professor here at GRCC] opened my mind to vegan cookery which helps me offer more variety to people.”
Silguero was working two jobs to pay for school, something many GRCC students can relate to, and was honored to receive this assistance from the Culinary Arts community which has become like a family to him.
Silguero still finds himself meeting up with old professors and directors of the Culinary Arts program, even seven years after graduating.
Silguero gives much of his time to MeXo nowadays. He is a hard worker and spoke of how time consuming his job can be. But he finds delight in cooking some of his favorite dishes.
“I was really into breakfast foods for a while” said Silguero, remembering a steak and eggs dish he made with “morita and chorizo verde.”
He was also fond of a savory churro he once made.
“It is a Cotija Churro,” said Silguero. “Churros are usually sweet, but I wanted to put a savory spin on this dish”
His talent is obvious, and his gratitude to GRCC is easily recognizable, but his passion is what shines through the most.
“I don’t cook for compliments, I do it because I love it” said Silguero, “it is just very fulfilling to feed people.”
Silguero shows all the attributes of a wonderful chef and a great GRCC Alum.
“He is hardly recognizable to me from when he first started,” Chef Campbell said, “he has grown into exactly what I imagined him to be, a perfect employee with a gracious and courteous heart.”