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From Dishwasher to Chef

By Elder Lopez

(Originally appeared in Good Jobs, Not Just Any Jobs!, March 2013)

JSI/WEI Photo Library Photo
My first job in the United States was working in an Italian restaurant. I worked as a dishwasher, washing the pots and pans. I didn’t like it, but I figured it was an opportunity to eventually realize my dreams, so I did it.

I remember one Saturday night that was crazy busy. The manager asked me to do something for him, but I didn’t speak much English at that time. The manager got angry with me because I didn’t understand him. I felt so sad and angry, but the ex¬perience made me think. I told myself that I was going to try hard to learn English and never give up. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, which helped me decide to take that event and make a change.

I found a school where I could study English in the mornings and continue to work at night. It wasn’t easy, but I took the chal¬lenge. I always try to work hard and to learn something new every day, so that kept me going. I discovered my passion for cook¬ing and my goal to one day become a restaurant chef, and I was able to make my dream a reality.

I feel proud of myself because I still work in the same restaurant where I started as a dish-washer, but now I am one of the chefs. I am even good friends with the manager who was so angry with me on that Saturday night. Although I like what I do now, I still have a lot of other dreams to realize, which keeps me motivated to continue my education.

Elder Lopez came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was 16 years old. He is a student at the Methuen Adult Learning Center in Methuen, MA. He says, “Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important and capture the good times. Develop from the negative and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.”

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