Jet Tila visits Latin

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IMG_7896 A selfie with Jet Tila! When I heard that Jet Tila was coming to Latin, I was ecstatic. Chef Jet? Here?? Thanks to Flik’s commitment and a small miracle, the answer was yes. For those of you who don’t know, our special guest came to us all the way from Food Network, where he judges Cutthroat Kitchen and occasionally appears on other shows as well. Because I watch Cutthroat Kitchen as religiously as most people watch American Horror Story, the event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. So, like any reasonable fan would’ve done, I left Spanish early, secured an interview, and met with Mr. Tila a few hours before his open house presentation. This is what I learned. Mr. Tila grew up in east Los Angeles. His family, after arriving in the United States in the ‘60s, opened a Thai restaurant and the first Thai grocery store in the United States. The restaurant was where he spent most of his time, no matter what he was doing. “Think about the smallest Asian restaurant you ever went to,” he said to set the scene. “You see the kid in the corner doing his homework? That was me.” Of course, he didn’t do much homework in the first place. He liked to learn, but like many professional chefs, he wasn’t a very responsible student. In fact, he wanted to be a police officer—cooking was the last thing he wanted to do. When he wasn’t in school, he was working at his family’s restaurant. Somehow, though, he managed to have a social life, and was even voted prom king his senior year. He graduated high school in 1992, and he would prefer it if you didn’t do the math. Fortunately, Mr. Tila was pulled into the kitchen before he could join the LAPD. After a couple quick stops at Le Cordon Bleu and the California Sushi Academy, his path was set. He loves his job now, especially his position as a judge on Cutthroat Kitchen. Here’s the gist of the show, in case you’ve never seen it: Alton Brown, renowned food scientist, looks on as four chefs compete in three rounds of cooking. The twist—each competitor is given $25,000 to use in a few auctions, where they can purchase opportunities to help themselves or hurt their opponents. The winner goes home with whatever money he or she has left. Mr. Tila was lucky enough to judge the very first episode, which was filmed as a test to see if the show made any sense. Fortunately, it did, and it soon passed Chopped in ratings. Cutthroat Kitchen has also become the teen favorite, with more young viewers than any other Food Network show. Is it the suspense? The humor? No one knows. But the high ratings may lead to another special tournament. “We’re still trying to crack the code on how to do high school Cutthroat,” Mr. Tila reported. This isn’t my decision to make, but Teen Cutthroat Kitchen would be a pretty amazing Project Week. How did we manage to book such a celebrity, anyway? The answer is simple: Flik is amazing. Our returning food provider is one of many sectors of a company called Compass Group. Mr. Tila has a national partnership with Compass, which means that for one hundred days in every year, he does whatever they want him to. He created the majority of Compass’s Asian concepts and recipes during his time with them. School presentations, though, he only does with Flik. “I don’t do this with any other middle school, high school, or educational providers anywhere else,” he revealed, “because Flik is such a great company and they’ve been such good partners.” Hear that, Flik? You’re his favorite! But Compass has a habit of cramming presentations into short time spans. He arrived in Chicago from LA three hours before the open house at Latin, finished at six, and flew to New York two hours later. Getting him to stop at our school really was a miracle. When he’s not flying around the country, filming his show, running his restaurants, or acting as the United States Culinary Ambassador of Thai Cuisine—sorry, I forgot to mention that—Mr. Tila spends time with his wife and two children, who he considers to be his most important full-time job. He rations his free time, saving his beloved saltwater fishing trips for special occasions. But when he really wants to avoid food, he resorts to his guilty pleasure: movies. The “tech nerd” in him keeps drawing him back to Star Wars and Star Trek, although he admits that he has a bit of a personal bias towards the latter. LeVar Burton—Geordi La Forge, the guy with the visor—is one of Mr. Tila’s closest friends. They have occasional dinner dates and got together a few months ago for their first video on Periscope, a live video streaming app that I’ve never heard of but seems cool. I hope some of you went to the open house to meet Mr. Tila; he’s the nicest famous person I’ve ever met. Find him on his own website, Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, and even Pinterest. And if you need a new show to watch, he and I both highly recommend Cutthroat Kitchen, the only show to ever feature a man preparing meatballs while submerged in a small ball pit. We were incredibly lucky to have Mr. Tila visit us! ]]>