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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Caruso’s chef de cuisine’s love of music guides cooking career

Chef de cuisine Amadeo Rendon stands in his kitchen holding a piece of meat beginning the preparation process. During his four years working at Caruso’s restaurant at Rosewood Miramar Beach, Rendon began as a prep cook and made his way to becoming the chef de cuisine. To do this, Rendon had to master each station in the kitchen. From meat, fish, appetizers and desserts, Rendon has been everywhere in the kitchen. Now, being the chef de cuisine, he oversees the whole kitchen. Rendon began his shift at 11 a.m. and will go home around midnight on Saturday, April 1.

In a symphony of organized chaos, one cook balances a tray of handmade pasta while across the room, freshly caught halibut simmers in 200 degrees of oil. Meat is sliced expertly off its bones and vegetables are cut to perfection. 

Each dish is a representation of the unison workings of the kitchen’s orchestra. In harmony, the chefs conduct the heart and soul of Caruso’s restaurant.

Amadeo Rendon thoughtfully recounts his life from the moment he left his home in Guerrero, Mexico to start a new life in California where, through a long maze of experiences, became chef de cuisine at a Michelin star restaurant.

In 1999, Rendon was 14 years old when he moved 2,000 miles from his home, surrounded by new people, places and a foreign language. With a childhood dream of following in the footsteps of his family, he had always dreamt of becoming a musician or a director. Guitar, piano, trumpet, violin, saxophone, and trombone are all part of his musical toolbox.

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With a new world buzzing all around him, Rendon decided to take the first steps towards his future by enrolling in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at City College. In pursuit of his musical dreams, the aspiring musician declared a music major while focusing on studying English.

“I didn’t know anything,” he said, quiet and introspective as he spoke. “It was definitely very scary.”

When the classroom walls weren’t looming over him, Rendon spent most of his time working from afternoon through sunrise. At 3 p.m. he would begin a shift at La Super-Rica on Milpas Street, ending at 11 p.m., only to rush to his next shift as a baker that lapsed until sunrise, finally returning home at 7 a.m. the next morning. 

It wasn’t until 12 years after he moved to Santa Barbara that his mindset shifted, realizing that a career can be made out of cooking. He began noticing the similarities in the art of music and the art of cooking.

“The kitchen is an orchestra and everyone plays a different instrument,” Rendon said, eyes filling with excitement and passion while he sculpted a metaphor. “The chef is the director, the cooks do different things–A cook that specializes in meat and one for pasta and another for fish, a cook for starters and one for pastries.” 

As the chef recalled back to his beginnings, the influx of memories gleamed across his face. He accredits much of his success to the mentors and teachers who greatly impacted his work along the way. The culinary school at City College provided Rendon with a new outlet for his skills.

“At first it was really tough,” he said, recalling his first cooking experiences at City College. “I didn’t have the language which made instructions very hard.”

In 2017 Rendon was hired by Monica De Alba, the cafeteria chef at City College at the time, to work in the cafeteria while completing the courses at the school of culinary arts. 

“He is very talented and very hard working,” De Alba said. “He was a recipe for success.”

When Rendon was in the transition between music and cooking, he worked at a restaurant. Soon after he began, he was fired. Laughing shyly into his hands resting on the table, Rendon speaks as though the rightful reaction is to be ashamed, but later admitted that being fired became a contributing factor both to his personal growth and motivation towards his next steps.

“I was humiliated by my own people,” Rendon said. “And it’s funny, now they want to work for me…that helped me make the decision to join the culinary program.”

Letting go of his musical aspirations, the City College student devoted the next few years of his education to culinary arts while in his thirties.

In 2019 after working as a cook at other local restaurants, he was hired at Caruso’s restaurant at the Rosewood Miramar Beach, a highly esteemed position. Rendon’s skills were put to the test as he moved up the ladder from a preparation cook to sous-chef, then to chef de cuisine where he has switched roles, now acts as a mentor and a teacher to others. 

“We are a team and everybody plays a different role,” he said. 

 In December of 2022, Caruso’s was honored with a red and green Michelin star- one of the greatest achievements in the culinary world. An achievement equivalent, according to Rendon, to “receiving a Grammy.”

“We are so proud of him,” De Alba said. “He has a great passion for cooking which is definitely one of the many traits of a successful chef.”

At the small, intimate Michelin gathering in Los Angeles, Rendon described the feeling when he heard their name announced. All of the 16-18 hour days and hard work all became worth it when their name was called.

“I never thought this would happen. I couldn’t believe it,” Rendon said. “I was shaking. It was amazing to know that we were on that level now.”

As he continues to excel in his culinary career, Rendon never let go of his passion for music. He chose to return to City College as an adult learner, picking up where he left off by enrolling in music classes as a part time student. While returning to his roots in music, Rendon remains to be the conductor of culinary mastery as the chef de cuisine of Caruso’s restaurant. 


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