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By Janet Cruz
Lake Havasu City resident Cristal Torres always had a passion for food. That passion is taking her to New York City, to the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most prestigious schools in the world.
Before graduating from Lake Havasu High School and applying to colleges and universities, Torres knew at a very young age a career in culinary was for her.
“I went to Nautilus Elementary and began to bake when I was in third grade. I later continued in high school when I enrolled in the Western Arizona Vocational Education (WAVE) program. That is when I began to take my hobby seriously,” Torres said.
Torres was born and raised in Lake Havasu City in a Mexican American household, with her brothers and later welcoming two younger sisters. Like most middle children in a family, Torres felt most responsible for mending the family’s issues, converting her into a person who strives to problem solve and work toward an end goal, instead of longing for a situation to change magically.
After a few years, her family spent time in North Carolina before coming back to Lake Havasu City. Torres and her family eventually moved back after her father dealt with a few issues which eventually landed him in jail. The family thought a fresh start for her father and the entire family would be needed so they returned to where they felt he would be best supported by his family.
“My dad is diagnoised as bipolar. It is an ugly disease but it pollinates the most beautiful interactions. I love him and his flaws,” said Torres. “His condition has taught me unimaginable levels of peace, patience and forgiveness. There was never a maybe when it came to whether he loved or supported me,” Torres said.
Baking soon became an escape for Torres and it brought her some peace and comfort in her home.
“I baked because it brought a bit of sweetness into my then-bitter household. My dad always provided ingredients for me, it was the first transaction once his check arrived.”
Torres recalls how 99-cent Pillsbury Doughboy mixes brought her an hour of joy when she was a kid in her broken home.
“It was all I have ever longed for. Although I could never fix the problems at home, the bliss I felt in trying was a very fulfilling source of happiness for me.”
Soon boxed cake mixes turned into eclairs, which turned into macaroons, which turned into many other dishes.
Eventually, Torres became busy in her school work and practicing her culinary skills in the WAVE program at Lake Havasu High School while also working at the local restaurant Nikos.
Torres was offered acceptance and a full scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most prestigious schools in the world. The institution awards only two scholarships a year in the country.
In order to raise funds for room and board, Cristal Torres, her boyfriend and support from the community is hosting a Fine Dinning Dinner Fundraiser at The KAWS in Lake Havasu City Thursday, to cover room and board which is not included in the tuition-only scholarship.
“This fundraiser is also a final goodbye to my city. I want to showcase the blessings that Lake Havasu has gifted me and thank everyone for being a part of this loving community,” Torres said.
Torres said her ultimate goal in her culinary journey after obtaining her bachelor’s degree is to revolutionize the unsustainable farming industry and to place those practices in third-world countries and work in a top-tier dinning establishment.
“I have a goal to work at a Michelin-star restaurant and be in the top 50 restaurants in the world someday. I am hungry to be able to make my ancestors proud and break the generational curses of poverty as well. Education is a gateway, and I knew that from a very young age too,” Torres said.
“We don’t realize the beauty of food but it is always there for us. We are creatures born to eat and love, live to love to eat.”
For more information on her fundraiser at the KAWS, or other ways to donate, contact Cristaaalt@gmail.com for tickets. This fundraiser will be held at The KAWS on Thursday, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 per seat.
Dinner begins at 7:30 p.m., with a Bill Williams-inspired Appetizer, followed by a London Bridge-themed main course. A sunset-focused dessert will conclude the three-course dinner.