Young, smart and talented, Elsa Sabellano-Jenstad has the makings of a successful professional. While she impresses many with her outstanding accomplishments in her craft, her journey to culinary success is one that is not achieved easily.
But Jenstad is proud to rise from all the hardships—moving towards a bright culinary career path nurtured by her passion for cooking and coupled by her solid training from the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA, Manila).
“My mother didn’t have the resources to send me to culinary school. So she decided to send me to Ateneo de Davao University through a scholarship. I finished my BSBA-Marketing degree as a full-time working scholar,” Jenstad recalled.
“Even with a degree, I still didn’t give up my dream of becoming a professional chef someday. My love for cooking started as a child, when I would assist my grandmother in the kitchen and spend time intently watching cooking shows on TV. I also collected clippings of recipes from magazines or newspapers back in high school,” she added.
For her culinary dream to take flight, she entered CCA, Manila-Oceana campus where she finished a six-month fast track for Professional Chef Program. After graduating with flying colors in June 2010, she left for the US and landed a job at the Atlantis Steakhouse of Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada, as head of the Pantry station for three years.
By November 2014, Jenstad decided to pursue higher studies at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas.
True to her words, Jenstad has become a consistent top contender in many school-organized competitions, actively pitting her culinary skills against fellow students. One such major highlight is the recent Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge 2015 held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where she was declared the grand prize winner.
“I submitted an entry to Bon Appetit New York for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge 2015 competition. I wanted to enter this contest not only for the prize but also to show that I can cook excellent food and that Filipinos are fabulous cooks,” Jenstad said.
After a tedious selection process which merits were based on the student’s background and performance in school, she was eventually chosen by Bon Appetit New York and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Las Vegas. “Being selected was a great opportunity and an honor,” she mused.
Competing alongside one of America’s famous celebrity chefs, Chef Emeril Lagasse, is regarded as a wish fulfilled by Jenstad. “It was a great opportunity to be paired with a famous celebrity chef here in the US. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Chef Emeril was so nice, and a down to earth person, cool and friendly.”
Combined hard work and ingenuity eventually paid off, as the pair was declared the ultimate winners, with the Pinay chef receiving a $20,000 scholarship.