A Niagara University student has leveraged a self-professed addiction to Instagram into a starring appearance on one of television's most popular competitive cooking shows.
Cody Candelario, an NU senior majoring in luxury hospitality operations, will be one of four contestants featured on the July 26 episode of the Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen." Hosted by Alton Brown, the show airs at 10 p.m.
"Alton Brown was the reason I began cooking, so this is an absolute honor!" exclaimed Candelario, of Healdsburg, California.
Candelario said he took an interest in cooking at a young age, often preparing meals for his relatives and friends from as far back as sixth grade. He became hooked on the culinary arts when he found "Good Eats," the award-winning cooking program Brown created (and hosted) beginning in 1999. Candelario said it was the manner in which Brown described how cooking processes worked and his quirky methods for delivering information that really appealed to him.
"I'd cook for people using his recipes and recite his lines as my own," admitted Candelario, 22.
Approximately two years ago, while studying at NU, Candelario took on a full-time job working at Carmelo's Restaurant in Lewiston. He started posting photos of his culinary creations on an Instagram feed he set up to market his skills.
After several months of developing online connections with chefs, promoters and cooking labels through the social networking site, a casting agent for the Food Network contacted Candelario. He and the agent exchanged several emails and had several Skype interviews. Then came mounds of paperwork and a flight to Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles) for a tryout. In mid-December, Candelario learned he'd made the cut.
The premise of "Cutthroat Kitchen" is that four chefs are each given $25,000, which they may spend on supplies to either assist in their own preparation or on ways to sabotage the efforts of their opponents. After each cooking challenge is presented, the chefs have 60 seconds to gather ingredients in the pantry and then regroup for an auction to bid on culinary curveballs, such as the exclusive use of salt or not allowing their opponents to taste their dishes. A chef is eliminated after each of the three rounds, and the last competitor standing wins the money he or she has left in their bank.
One of the contestants Candelario competes against in Sunday's episode is Kristopher Plummer, better known as Chef Plum from his appearances on ABC's "The Taste" and the Food Network. The Culinary Institute of America graduate has his own iTunes podcast and is someone Candelario said he'd maintain contact with moving forward.
Candelario is currently working abroad through Niagara University in Lake Como, Italy. During the week, he performs management rotations at the Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio and then travels on weekends to learn about food prep techniques at locations such as Cinque Terre, Milan, Florence, Rome and Venice.
Candelario will spend his senior year in Germany participating in NU's dual-degree program with the International University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef.
It's safe to say Candelario will be well-prepared when he graduates for whatever professional path lies ahead of him. And that's a good thing, because Candelario prefers to keep his options open, thinking in terms of five-year intervals rather than long-range career aspirations.
"I've never liked the question, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'" Candelario wrote candidly via email. "I have a loose set of goals I wish to accomplish, and a direction. In the next three years, I want to open a food truck. Then in the next five, a restaurant. I also want to be a sommelier, a hotel owner, a Food Network judge and a rock star.
"I want to be happy."
Follow Candelario on Instagram at http://instagram.com/coops_deville. More information on Niagara University's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management is available at www.niagara.edu/hospitality.
UPDATE: Candelario went on to win his episode.