By Benjamin De Leon
Behind every culinary masterpiece there lies a story of cultural heritage, Riverside City College Chef Maria Sanjurjo-Casado proves it time and time again with her contribution to the Culinary Academy on Market Street.
Growing up in Iquitos, Peru, Sanjurjo-Casado would always watch her mother bake and cook but it wasn’t until she moved to Lima, Peru that she would begin to cook with her and begin her culinary journey.
“One of my favorites to make was orange chiffon cake for my grandma, I always made that for her,” Sanjurjo-Casado said.
In addition to her apprenticeship with her mom, Sanjurjo-Casado also attended technical schools in Peru to help hone her skill.
It was only thirty years ago that Casado moved her entire life to the United States.
During her first three years in America she was merely a volunteer for RCC as she worked alongside former chef Farman.
Sanjurjo-Casado became a certified pastry chef after receiving her credentials from the American Culinary Federation.
Since June 2001 she has taught at RCC. It’s been eighteen years and does not plan to leave anytime soon. To me it is not a job, it’s something I love,” Casado said.
For Sanjurjo-Casado, she finds excitement and thrill in challenges and gets her fix from baking.
From being able to combine two contrasting flavors in her head and make a masterpiece out of it to manipulating her own formulas to find different results, there is nothing Sanjurjo-Casado cannot do when it comes to baking.
Everyone has that activity whether it be yoga, sports or games, that help them disconnect from the world and for Sanjurjo-Casado, that is baking.
This profession is not easy and challenges her on a daily basis but she has found a way to make the best out of any situation.
“You have to be organized, have a list and have focus,” Sanjuro-Casado said.
The thought of leaving to work in a restaurant peaks no interest in Sanjurjo-Casado for the mere fact that education is one of her passions and she wants to continue to inspire the students around her.
Sanjurjo-Casado is currently teaching cake decorating and fundamentals of baking this semester. She also helps run the Culinary Academy and many of her students take both because they cannot get enough.
“Chef Maria is a woman who is devoted and truthful to her career, she has inspired many of her students to become the finest there can be,” Cecilia Gamez culinary student said.
By taking a class with Sanjurjo-Casado students are challenged to push themselves to their limits and she will be there for them every step of the way.
Of course there is this pressure to perform well for a professor but Sanjurjo-Casado makes sure her students understand she is there for them to succeed and only that.