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Behind the Apron with Model Meals Sous Chef, Ralph Perez

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Model Meals Sous Chef, Ralph Perez, is magic in the kitchen, the recording studio, and with a deck of cards. Not only can he whip up a fine dining spread with his culinary expertise, he can also teach you proper deadlifting technique while helping you apply perfectly winged eyeliner. To say this member of our team is jack of all trades would be a drastic understatement. As a CrossFit competitor and coach and bassist in a local band, Ralph is no stranger to making performance a priority. We've gotten to know Chef Ralph inside and outside of the kitchen and are excited to be introducing him to you. He's sharing all about how he "learned in the trenches" and went from pretending to host a cooking show as a child to making his culinary goals a reality. 

Model Meals Chef's, Ralph and Claudia

"...there is no cookbook or culinary teacher that can teach you how to handle the pressures that come with being in this industry, but if you can handle it and embrace it, you just may make it."

Hi Chef Ralph. We are so thrilled to have you as a part of our MM Team. You’ve brought so much heart into the kitchen and it’s apparent you are extremely  passionate about what you do. Share with us how you found your way to the culinary arts.

Growing up being around my grandma and great grandmother, they had me in the kitchen a lot. Though they were not really focusing on teaching  me or passing knowledge down, I would just sit, watch, and think of different things I would want to try to cook. Later in my teens I would watch the very few cooking shows they had on public access TV. Shows like “Yang Can Cook." This was before Food Network and the big culinary boom. I remember I would make food for myself and pretend I was on a cooking show tell my audience every step I was doing.  At that point, I never thought of it being anything but something I did for fun. It wasn’t until after some really troubled years as teen/young adult that I made the decision to straighten out my life and pursue something that really made me happy as a career.

I went to culinary school at the Art Institute but had troubles with financial aid and had to stop. I didn't know at the time, but that may have been the best thing for me. Shortly after, I was fortunate enough to be given a chance to cook and learn from the chefs at Club 33 in Disneyland which is their very private, fine dining establishment. It was there where I trained in the art of fine dining. I call it learning in the streets or the trenches, which I think can be more beneficial. I was later promoted to Sous Chef  while working there and had the opportunity to open several new locations with Disney from the ground up.

Head Chef Claudia and Sous Chef Ralph

It really sounds like you didn’t know that you would ultimately end up making incredible creations in the kitchen. You say you “learned in the trenches.” What does that mean? What kind of places helped you hone your craft?

To learn in the trenches can be common. It's pretty much being thrown to the wolves and being taught on the fly, but it's important to have great chefs that are passionate and can get the best out of you. I am really grateful to the chefs that mentored me. They were tough on me only because they saw potential. One thing I will always take from learning in the trenches is that there is no cook book or no culinary teacher that could teach you how to handle the pressures that come with being in this industry, but if you can handle it and embrace it, you just may make it.

You are a veteran chef at Disney. Share with us what is was like for you there when you really started to dial in on being creative and flourishing as a chef.

It was such an amazing experience. I got a lot of  opportunities to do some really great and fun stuff. I was able to have a major part in the menu development of several new locations, but I was also able to represent the culinary team in TV and radio interviews. But for me, the ultimate was when I was asked to do several food demos for the Food and Wine festival at Disney California Adventure. The first time I got on stage to do my first demo was such a great moment for me. All I could think of at that moment was when I was younger, pretending to give demos, when I would make something at home. There I was, standing on stage in front of a couple hundred people and it was about to actually happen.

Chef Ralph leading a class at Disney

Chef Ralph presenting at the Food and Wine Festival

While you obviously know your way around the kitchen, what are some of your other passions?

There is so much to list and I am equally passionate about them all.

Music is very big in my life I’ve played in some semi-successful projects and am still currently doing it as a bassist.

I also am a professional makeup artist. I do cinematography/videography, coaching and training for CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting, graphic design and I've also trained as a Magician…...yes, magic.

Chef Ralph creating monster makeup

Ralph demonstrating his makeup artistry talents

Magic too? It really sounds like you have a wide array of interests. You talked about physical fitness and being involved in the CrossFit community. Is that how you got introduced to Paleo-type nutrition?

Yes, that was a big part of it, along with some health issues. I have always eaten not so good but when I started training 9 to 10 times a week and along with having some kidney issues, I had to make a change. What I was eating was working against me. I never thought of nutrition being something that could heal your body and mind.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to food and being a chef?

Love what you, be passionate about what you do, and  care about what you do. It will show in your work.

Chef Ralph playing with his band       Chef Ralph playing with his band

Chef Ralph also loves music and is a bassist in a local band, Wake Up Wake Up

Give us the inside scoop: what has it been like working with the Model Meals kitchen team? Have you become aware of anything you may not have realized before?

It’s a great experience. The entire team is really passionate and cares about what we do here and what we provide. People really depend on what we do more than I could have ever imagined,  we owe it to them to give the best.

What’s your favorite thing about being a chef and working in the kitchen? What really lights you up about what you do?

Being creative and  the intensity of a busy kitchen. Problem solving on your feet, action, and buzz in the kitchen, mentoring and teaching others. Sharing your passion with others who are eager.

Tell us, what’s your favorite MM dish and why?

Chilaquiles. I really can’t pinpoint why. Maybe because I didn't think I was a fan of sweet potatoes until it took that first bite of that dish.  

Model Meals Whole30 Paleo Chilaquiles with Chorizo

We can totally relate! While we are big on Food Freedom and nutrition choices that work for each individual, has working for MM influenced your own health habits?

Absolutely. I’m more aware of food choices now and because Model Meals meals are more readily accessible, that has been really important because I’m so busy.

If you weren’t a chef what else would you be?

Makeup artist, videographer, or musician.

Ralph, thank you so much for sharing how you came to be a part of the MM Team. It’s so awesome to hear such inspirational stories from the people we get to work so closely with. It really shows us and our community that behind the meals, there are passionate, talented, vibrant chefs that take pride in what they create and what we serve to our customers. We can’t wait to see how you continue to contribute to our growth and expansion in and outside of the kitchen!

Keep up with Chef Ralph and his culinary, musical, and other diverse endeavors on Instagram @roc1two3.

Tell us in the comments- can you relate to this journey? What questions do you have for Chef Ralph? What should he cook up in the kitchen next?


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  • Loved this interview! Especially enjoyed hearing about his childhood with his grandparents that influenced him acting out a cooking show and then eventually doing it for a Disney festival! Full circle. Being so talented in so many vastly unique hobbies is freaking goals.

    Lauren Coats on

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