Meet the Freshman Class: Santa Cruz

The new students of Cabrillo College's culinary arts program have long dreamt of cooking for a living, only to be held back by individual challenges and obstacles. With all things financial, personal and professional on the line, they will have to fight tooth and nail to make it through the first semester.

©Jeremey Bot

©Jeremey Bot

©Jeremey Bot

©Jeremey Bot

It's More Than a New Profession; It's a New Life

Cabrillo College's unique program utilizes a real fully operational, student-run restaurant and catering service for students to get hands-on experience.

Can They Stand the Heat?

Tensions run high in the kitchen. The students have to balance personal challenges amidst the chaotic process of learning the culinary ropes and chasing their dreams. 

Meet Amalia

Age: 35

Amalia has always dreamed of owning her own bakery. But then she married, had kids and became a full-time mom at a young age. Now she's about to start college and spend the majority of her time outside the home for the first time in her adult life. She's not sure how she's going to handle being away from her four young kids –– or how they'll handle it.

Meet Gabriel

Age: 22

Gabriel spent his teen years hurting people and wreaking havoc as a member of a notorious street gang. After he was arrested and spent time in jail for a robbery, he decided to turn his life around for the sake of his girlfriend and newborn son. Now Gabriel's about to start culinary school full time, and he feels unprepared for the rigors of class. He fears the temptation of gang life may pull him back into a world he's worked so hard to leave behind.

Meet Kim

Age: 50

From the outside, Kim seems to have the perfect life: She has a highly successful husband and lives on a gorgeous 10-acre estate in the Santa Cruz hills. But Kim isn't happy. She feels she dedicated the best years of her life to tending to her husband's needs, consequently putting her own dreams of becoming a chef on the back burner. She's ready to start over, but with her husband bristling at the changes she's bringing into their lives, she's concerned her school life might unravel her home life.

Meet Matheus

Age: 23

Matheus has wanted to become a chef his whole life, but his dreams were derailed earlier this year when he started having mysterious health problems. His doctor diagnosed him with a rare and incurable autoimmune disease that attacks the lungs and kidneys. Worse, Matheus was told he may only have eight years to live. Now he's trying to make every moment count and achieve his dream as quickly as possible without jeopardizing his fragile condition.

Meet Jim

Age: 53

Jim had a successful landscaping business until eight years ago, when he broke his back and couldn't work. As time went on, he ran through his savings and ended up homeless and living in his van. Now, with the help of financial aid, he's looking for a way to turn his life around by getting a degree in his first love, culinary arts. But Jim's worried that his age and health problems might make graduating impossible.

See Who Makes the Grade

Watch The Freshman Class every Tuesday at 8pm ET on Cooking Channel to see Amalia, Gabriel, Kim and Jim try to turn their lives around.

The Freshman Class