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Clemens HS alum fights obstacles to become chef

Isidro “Sid” Martinez could not have foreseen how dramatically his life would change over the four years since his graduation from Samuel Clemens High School in 2018. He would go from attending the prestigious Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school located in Denver, Colorado, to having the combination of the pandemic and an automobile accident derail his career plans for almost two years. Now, his story of perseverance has led to him the prestigious position of Executive Chef at the Courtyard Marriott in New Braunfels!


In addition to preparing and cooking the upscale dishes for groups of 40 to 150 people, Martinez is entrusted to run the day-to-day operations. “You do all the ordering and receiving, hiring and firing within the kitchen,” Martinez said. “You do inventory, make sure health & safety protocols are in place and stuff like that.”


Martinez was elevated to Executive Chef after hotel management deemed a change was needed in the kitchen. That meant seventy hour work weeks until he could build his staff. “I was the only one left for an entire month,” Martinez said. “I had to clean up the whole kitchen, gain the staff I needed to help me trust that I could get the food out on time, by myself.”


Culinary Arts was not on Martinez’s radar when he began his journey at Clemens High School. “I actually wanted to play baseball,” he said. “I didn’t make the team, so I said, ‘you know what, let me go and try culinary.’”  It didn’t take long to fall in love with the vocation. “I had no idea that this is what I wanted to do with my life, but after going through it and seeing all the competitions and mystery baskets that I was put in, that’s when I gained a love for it."


His talents didn’t escape the notice of Amanda Tharp, Culinary Arts teacher at Clemens High School. “Our in-class competitions showed him to have talent and creativity,” she said. “Other students began to seek his help and look to him as a class leader. He especially excelled in knife skills and coming up with exciting new menu items”


Sid’s life changed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was laid off from his job and his university shut down. Martinez went nearly two years without a job until it was deemed safe to return to work. A serious automobile accident put his life on hold even further. “I had six of seven months of physical therapy and pretty much fought through it,” he said. Finally, his hard work met an opportunity when the position at the Marriott Riverwalk arose. Now he finds himself on a quest to hone his skills and continue to challenge his customers’ palette with new and exciting food items. 


“There’s more to learn than just a simple recipe that’s in front of your face,” Martinez said. “There’s the proper techniques of cutting or sauteing in a pan, and different techniques to learn. As time passed, I started learning the menus, learning all the recipes that are needed to pursue and execute the banquets properly.”


It has not been an easy road for Sid Martinez since he crossed the stage as a Samuel Clemens High School graduate. But a pandemic, unemployment and an automobile accident didn’t deter his culinary dreams. There are still many appetizing dreams on his plate.


“I could see myself running my own place alongside my sister and my girlfriend,” Martinez said of the two, both of whom are Clemens HS and Johnson & Wells graduates. Tharp, for one, believes Martinez’s dream is well within his grasp. “He would try new flavors and combinations and often his creations became featured items in our bistros and caterings,” she said. “Sid had such passion and drive, I am not surprised. I expected great things from Isidro and he certainly delivered! “