Graduate: 2004, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles (formerly known as California School of Culinary Arts
Current Position: Executive Chef, Business Owner, Hell’s Kitchen Season 7 Winner
Le Cordon Bleu Alum Chef Holli Ugalde is on the Road to Success
Chef Holli Ugalde, season seven winner of the popular Hell's Kitchen television show and Le Cordon Bleu alumnus, attributes her professional success in part to a passion for fine cuisine as well as her education from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles.
"When I was four years old I told everyone that I wanted to be a chef and I never looked back. I knew culinary school would be vital to my success and that's where my training began.", says Chef Holli.
After high school, Chef Holli enrolled at the Los Angeles campus in Pasadena and later took her first cooking job with a friend's catering company. Years later, Chef Holli's training and deep-seated love of cooking helped her to win the hearts of millions of viewers as a contestant on season seven of FOX's Hell's Kitchen.
Chef Holli stays busy as president and founder of Chef Holli Enterprises. She has developed a line of olive oil and balsamic vinegars, works as a restaurant consultant for an international hotel chain and is publishing a cookbook. Having worked several jobs before opening her own business, Chef Holli offers advice to new culinary enthusiasts. "You will not be chef when you walk out of culinary school. I had a wide array of jobs as I moved up the ranks in the kitchen and honed my skills. In culinary school, I quickly realized that being a chef means constantly refining your skill set and opening yourself up to new ideas and flavor combinations."
Getting to Know Holli - Q/A
Sometimes You Have to Go Through "Hell" to Win
When did you realize cooking was your passion and how were you inspired to enroll in culinary school?
When I was four years old, I told everyone that I wanted to be a chef, and I never looked back. I knew that culinary school would be vital to my success, so I had always planned on attending. I actually tried to enroll when I graduated high school at 15, but I had to wait until I was 18 to officially enroll.
What is one thing that you learned in culinary school that has proven to be indispensible throughout your culinary career?
You will not be a chef when you walk out of culinary school. I had a wide array of jobs as I moved up the ranks in the kitchen and honed my skills. I realized early in culinary school that being a chef means constantly refining your skill set and opening yourself up for to new ideas and flavor combinations.
What is your current position? What career goals have you accomplished since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles?
I am president and founder of Chef Holli Enterprises. I have developed a line of olive oil and balsamic vinegars, am publishing a cookbook and I am doing restaurant consulting for a new international hotel chain. As a chef, I realize that there are many avenues of creativity to pursue beyond being in a restaurant kitchen.
What LCB foundational technique do you feel is the most important skill to master?
I truly feel that the knife cuts I learned in my first culinary class at Le Cordon Bleu were the most important thing I learned. Precision with a knife is the most obvious skill that separates the chef from the home cook.
What is your favorite flavor combination to use while cooking and why?
I love to use bacon, fennel and leeks together. This combination covers all the basic elements of taste and is satisfying on every layer of the palate.
What do you see as a popular cooking technique that is showing up in kitchens around the country? Or what cooking technique do you see gaining more popularity this year?
I see that simple proven techniques such as sous vid and cold smoking will continue to be prominent, because they allow food to be accessible and delicious. In my opinion, "new" techniques to make food innovative, such as molecular gastronomy, will always be niche specialties because they are not replicable by the home cook.
What ethnic/global cuisines will be the big trend this year?
I think that Thai food will continue to gain popularity around the country this year. It is delicious, fresh and lends itself to innovation and regional specialization.
Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years?
In ten years, I see myself owning an agriturismo in Italy and cooking all the food for my guests myself. I may still own product lines and restaurants all over the world, but I want to be personally catering to food-loving people utilizing the beautiful products in Italy.
Name a working chef that inspires you and why.
I am in love with Mario Batali. He is true to his style and passionate about everything he creates. He is incredibly successful and yet still loves cooking as much as a first-year culinary student. Aside from Chef Batali, I have a great deal of respect for Anthony Bourdain. He opens people's eyes to true global cuisine and has shown that through food, people from all cultures can relate.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a culinary career?
Get a job in a commercial kitchen before diving into culinary school. The culture of the kitchen is different than most work environments and it takes a certain type of person to be successful in the culinary world.
Career success will depend largely on the effort put into studies, job search efforts, experience and attitude. The experience of this alumnus is not representative of all students. This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields.