Fish-fry events spin money for Jamaican student in ParisSunday, September 26, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Many esteem it to be the city of love, but for 20-year-old Tarec Francis, it is the city of his dreams.
An aspiring chef, Francis hosted a series of fish-fry fund-raisers every Friday or every other Friday to raise money for his tuition after he was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, to study cuisine. Le Cordon Bleu is the largest network of culinary and hospitality universities in the world.
“I am in Paris, France, pursuing my studies and getting the required training to become a top chef. I will be here for about three years or more. I want to say this to all the youths out there who do not think they can do it, believe in yourself, aim for your goals, be humbled and make your family proud. I worked assiduously and told myself every day that I had to make my mom, who struggled with all her six children, my dad, the rest of the family, and everyone else who believed in me proud,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
“I remember sitting down late one night submitting applications to the top five culinary universities worldwide, challenging myself to see if they would actually accept me. The first university that accepted me was one in Switzerland. I was elated, even though that was not the one I really wanted to attend. I was extremely excited but somewhat disappointed because I did not hear from the one that was my first choice.”
But in about two weeks, that changed.
“I saw an e-mail from the university. That was it. Me glad bag buss. I cried tears of joy. Getting accepted to the Le Cordon Bleu University means the world to me. The university is very expensive but I will make it through with the God I serve and my support from those around me. Funding my first year, I had to do a lot of fish-fry fund-raisers.”
Francis told the Sunday Observer that before his passion for cooking, he was “bamboozled and irritated” after being told he had to do food and nutrition as a subject when he enrolled at Clifton Hunter High School in the Cayman Islands at age 15.
“Brimming with enthusiasm, coupled with trepidation, I knew that this was my chance to make an impact. Though I never doubted my potential for success, I never knew that my reticence or possible disappointment with being placed in a food and nutrition class would have metamorphosised into excitement uncontained. This class was the catalyst that triggered my experimentation with food and beverages satisfying the varied palates of not only my family and friends, but my teachers and peers alike,” the 2018/2019 director for the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly (CIYA) recalled.
It was the expressed satisfaction from others that led to him to enter, for the first time, a culinary competition, where he emerged the district cook-off champion.
“This win added much fodder to my passion for the culinary arts, and I rose to the challenge of securing the title of national champion in a keenly contested event. Soon, I was representing the Cayman Islands at the Caribbean Junior Dueling Challenge held in Barbados. Like a butterfly freed from his earlier cocoon of existence, I was soaring to heights unimagined, all while in secondary school. I was the head boy, prefect, class representative, peer mentor, academy vice-captain, and executive member of the student council at the Clifton Hunter High School.”
Before moving to Cayman, he attended Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
“My educational experience at the Jonathan Grant High School (JGHS) was genuinely amazing. I have learned a lot and have grown into a true disciplinarian. Jonathan Grant High School has motivated me to strive for excellence in all that I do, and this has been the mantra that kept me going for years. A huge shout out to Dr O'Neil Ankle, the school's principal, for the extravagant work he has been doing for the school for the past years.
“He is one of the best principals in Jamaica, without a doubt. Additionally, I would like to say a special thanks to my former form and math teacher Mr Simon for constantly pushing me to the best of my ability. Last but certainly not least, I would like to shout out all the other teachers at JGHS and my past classmates,” he told the Sunday Observer.
The year was 2016 when Francis found himself in Cayman, in a new environment, a new culture and a new school after visiting his father who had migrated. Francis said it wasn't planned for him to stay.
Nonetheless, throughout his tenure at Clifton Hunter High School, Francis was repeatedly featured among the top-performing students. In 2018, he secured 11 Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subjects.
And because of his outstanding performance and contribution to school life, Francis was awarded a full-time scholarship to pursue studies at the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI).
He was among 12 individuals selected from a pool of over 75 nominees for the coveted title as the Cayman Islands' 'Proud of Them' Honorees.' And his strides didn't cease there. Francis was a permanent feature on the President's List (Honour Roll) each semester.
“I graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Hospitality Management with honours, having attained a GPA of over 3.5,” he said.
“I represented the Cayman Islands and the Clifton Hunter High School at the Global Young Leaders Conference held in Washington, DC, and New York. At this conference, I was awarded the position of vice-chairman and received a Certificate of Distinction for outstanding dedication to educational achievement, strength of character, and leadership,” he added.
Grateful, he said, is the word that best describes him.
“This word says it all. I am forever humbled and thankful to God for all His many blessings. Without Him, none of this would've been possible,” he said.
“I want to big up my best friend Vanesia Gray for the continuous support she has given me. We stayed up numerous nights and scaled approximately 100 pounds of fish each time. I would also like to big up the entire Clifton Hunter High School staff. Thank you guys for the continuous support you all have given me during my tenure in the Cayman Islands. I truly love and appreciate you all.
“I want to thank my mom, stepmom, stepdad and especially my dad for everything you all have done for me over the years. I remember the day when my first-year tuition deadline approached. My dad went into all his bank accounts and took out all his money... every cent to cover my first year. Tears came to my eyes. I appreciate it a lot, dad. You're such a great father because not many fathers would do it. I will continue to make you all proud. Big up to my other families, especially my sisters, brother, niece and nephew, and friends in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. You guys know yourselves,” he continued.
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