If there is one thing that can universally bring people together, it is food. Everyone loves to eat. From gourmet mushroom risotto to a classic American cheeseburger, the thing that makes these dishes so delicious is the same thing that makes all of life’s moments sweeter: love.
Friendswood High School senior Ruben Rubalcava has been in the FHS culinary arts program since his freshman year. Everything he cooks and everything he does in done out of love, which is perhaps why he has found so much success.
“He has been an outstanding student in my program for all four years,” Melissa Novak, FHS culinary arts teacher, said of Rubalcava. “He is one of the kindest and most hard-working kids I’ve ever had. He puts his heart into it.”
Rubalcava said cooking has been a passion of his since as early as he can remember.
“I’ve always loved cooking,” he said. “It’s in my blood; it runs in my family.”
Cooking is a big part of Rubalcava’s family culture. His grandma actually owned and operated her own restaurant in Mexico before immigrating to the United States, and she was the first one to teach him how to cook.
“I would cook with my grandma when I went to her house and she would bake cookies with me. She also showed me how to make some of my favorite Mexican dishes,” Rubalcava said with a smile. “Now, whenever my mom is cooking, it brings me back to whenever I used to cook with my grandma.”
That strong foundation instilled an interest in Rubalcava that only grew stronger in time, all leading him to be one of the top students in the culinary arts program, an FCCLA officer and a National Technical Honor Society officer.
“He has a passion for the industry, but he also just has a passion for this program,” Novak said. “He helps with everything, whether it is at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m. Everything I ask him to do, he will drop what he’s doing and he will do it.”
Novak added, “He does not get much recognition for how much he truly does for my program. He can cook and he can do all of the culinary stuff, but above that, his core is good.”
Rubalcava credits his kind spirit to his upbringing. He said he is very close to his family, which is what made going to the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio this coming Fall a bitter-sweet decision.
“At first, my parents didn’t want me leaving Houston. My dad wanted me to go to the Art Institute and just take a culinary class there, but then I talked to him,” Rubalcava said. “He came over from Mexico to Houston for a better future and for his family, so I told him I was going to do this for my future and for my family, and it was going to be a good thing for me. That is how he let me join.”
Rubalcava said going off will be a new opportunity to grow and express himself.
“When I received the call saying I was accepted, I was very excited,” Rubalcava said. “I show my emotions through cooking rather than speaking because I’m really shy; that’s how I communicate with others.”
With his love for what he does, Novak said she has no doubt Rubalcava will be able to accomplish any goal he may have.
“Anything he does, he is going to dedicated himself to it,” Novak said. “He is definitely a success story.”
After culinary school, Rubalcava has his mind set on one, main goal.
“I want to open an authentic Mexican restaurant,” he stated. “It’s something I’ve wanted my whole life.”
When Novak heard this was his goal, she was ecstatic.
“He’s going to be extremely successful,” she said. “People will want to work for him because he is kind and he is a people person.”
As he works to make his dream a reality, Rubalcava said he will take with him the lessons he has learned along the way, pulling inspiration from his family and from Novak, and never forgetting to always add the secret ingredient of love.