Jim Reed is legally blind, but that didn’t stop him from following his dream. He is set to graduate from SLCC Culinary Institute. While attending a training center for blind adults Jim was given free run of a fully stocked kitchen and took advantage of it. Upon graduating from that center, he went to the nicest restaurant in town and asked for a job. The restaurant was a somewhat upscale Cajun-inspired steak and seafood place. The chef hired Jim on the spot as a prep cook, but he was eventually given bigger jobs. 
 
“As a chef, it is the blending of precision, fundamental techniques, and creativity that speaks to me the most. There is a right way to do everything and a precise moment where perfection is achieved; even 1 second on either side of that moment can result in the loss of that perfection. As a blind person, the tactile and experiential nature of preparing and eating food lends itself to being one of the only forms of art where I don’t feel at a disadvantage as a creator and where I don’t feel like I am losing a significant element as a consumer of the art,” he explained. 
 
He says his biggest barrier to employment is discrimination; there are not many chefs willing to let a blind person into their kitchen in a commercial kitchen where he has no control over inventory and space. Jim’s biggest challenge is in finding ingredients/equipment. He says attending the culinary institute at SLCC has been a good experience for him. 
 
“The chefs and others have all been fantastic to work with. Culinary school is something I have wanted to do my whole life, but never really wanted to take that leap as a blind person. Now, I am in a time and place in my life where I can pursue that goal while also working full time. Additionally, the tuition at SLCC is significantly cheaper than the big-name schools,” he shared.
 


Cold avocado soup

Serves 12

·        2 medium poblano chile

·        2 small white onion, sliced into 1/4 -inch-thick rings

·        5 cups lower-salt chicken broth; more as needed

·        4  medium firm-ripe avocados (6 to 7 oz. each), pitted, peeled, and cut into large chunks

·        1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

·        ¼ cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

·        4  tsp. chopped fresh marjoram or oregano (optional)

·        ½ cup fresh lime juice (from 4  medium limes)

·        2 tsp. ground cumin

·        1 tsp. ground coriander

·        Kosher salt

·        1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

·        2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

·        1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)  (or sunflower seeds  or almonds)

·        ¼  tsp. pure New Mexico chile powder; more for serving

Directions

On a gas stove, turn a burner to high and set the poblano directly over the flame, turning it with tongs, until completely charred, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, on an electric stove, heat the broiler on high and char the poblano on all sides on a baking sheet placed directly under the broiler. Put the poblano in a bowl, cover, and set aside to steam and loosen the skin. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed, and cut the poblano into 1/4 -inch dice.

Heat an 11- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion and cook, turning a few times, until soft and browned in places, about 5 minutes.

In a blender, purée until smooth all but 1 Tbs. of the poblano, the onion, broth, avocado, cilantro, parsley, marjoram or oregano (if using), 2 Tbs. of the lime juice, cumin, coriander, and 1 tsp. salt. Blend in the yogurt. Season to taste with more salt. Chill well.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the pepitas and cook until they begin to pop and color a bit, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice, the chile powder, and 1/8 tsp. salt and stir until the juice has evaporated, leaving a film on the pan.

Season the soup to taste with salt and thin with broth if necessary. Divide among 6 cups or small bowls and garnish with the pepitas, the remaining poblano, and a few pinches of chile powder. Adjust final seasoning when the soup is cold as taste perceptions change based on the temperature of food.