The Culinary King
Raul Cervantes of the Salinas Golf and Country Club wins honors as top chef in Monterey County.
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Photo: Chef Raul Cervates joins an exalted group as this year''s ACF Monterey Bay Chapter Chef of the year.
The American Culinary Federation (ACF) was established in 1929 to give practitioners of the culinary arts a reason to regularly throw large banquets congratulating themselves on their ability to withstand horrible working conditions and long hours. These fetes also allow them to occasionally get out of those silly white jackets with the unusual buttons and wear real clothes. Plus, if they get any type of serious honor by the Federation, they get to wear these really cool medals around their necks like Olympic athletes-in fact they actually have a Culinary Olympics.
The ACF''s biggest annual shindig is the gala presentation of the Chef of the Year Award. The ACF Monterey Bay Chapter held its celebration this past Saturday.
Chef Raul Cervantes, he of noble name, strong shoulders, loving spirit and boundless, joyful, energy, was the recipient of this year''s award. Emcee Hunter Finnell deftly choreographed the evening''s stirring and emotionally rich ceremony, which was followed by an appropriately fine dinner. Finnell called forth luminary after luminary to lavish praise and gifts upon Chef Cervantes.
With longtime Titan of the Toque Bert Cutino as the hub around which the whole evening revolved, Chef Cervantes''s admirers and peers took turns honoring him not only for his work in the kitchen at Salinas Golf and Country Club, but also for his work in the community. A force throughout the year at events like the Big Sur Marathon, Cherries Jubilee and The Children''s Miracle Network, Raul Cervantes epitomizes the qualities necessary to be considered for the ACF''s top honor.
The organization encourages and rewards extracurricular community service. When you consider how much time chefs have to put in on the job, it is a wonder that any of them actually find the time and energy to accomplish anything more than basic necessities of life when they''re not at work.
As unique as any of them is Bert Cutino, founder and co-owner of The Sardine Factory. Although a prominent businessman now, Bert will always be a chef at heart. A past Chef Of The Year from the Monterey Chapter (1983), as well as National Chef Of The Year in ''88, Chef Cutino beamed with pride and empathy as he watched Chef Cervantes at the podium. Cervantes, the son of Mexican immigrants, was aglow with genuine appreciation, thanking his wife Sara, his parents, family and friends as well as half the population of Salinas.
Salinas mayor, The Honorable Anna Caballero, who won the unofficial award for most concise speech, listed the great things about Salinas, then attached Raul Cervantes to the list as she presented him with a plaque and testimonial.
Also in attendance were some mayors of the various communities on the Peninsula-Dan Albert (Monterey), Jerry Smith (Seaside), and Sandra Koffman (PG). Sam Farr, US Representative from the 17th District, was also on hand to congratulate Chef Cervantes and reminisce about when Cannery Row was just an eye (and nose) sore until Bert Cutino took the risk to open a restaurant and begin the long renaissance of that area. Cutino later thanked Farr for helping to write legislation that directly affected things like culinary education as well as the entire hospitality industry. It was basically a love fest.
Before dinner was served, Bert Cutino gave a beautiful invocation and prayer, remembering the many members of the culinary community killed on September 11. His message really drove home the closeness felt among members of the restaurant industry, especially those who toil in the back of the house, where pressure and danger is greatest.
A multi-course dinner prepared by Hyatt Regency''s Executive Chef Eric Howson and his staff topped off the evening. Chef Howson thanked local purveyors and wineries for supporting the affair and for their ongoing service and professionalism.
With one more round of congratulations to Chef Cervantes, the party wound down, as the happy culinary professionals and friends made their way into the brisk Monterey evening. Hopefully, Raul Cervantes continued on long into the night, partying with his close friends and family, in order to revel in what was obviously a very important occasion in his life. And hopefully, Chef Cervantes had the next day off.