From San Juan to Charlotte: A Transfer Student Makes Himself at Home

For Luis de Jesus Marquez '23, cooking is all about gatherings — of family, of friends, whether planned or impromptu. He grew up in the kitchen cooking at least once a week. “In Puerto Rico, we would cook in bulk for family and neighbors,” Marquez says. “We would have unplanned parties. Someone would start cooking, then someone else would show up with pork.”

“What I like is making people happy with what I am cooking.”

Marquez lived most of his life in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, which has a reputation as a culinary capital of the Caribbean. He started his JWU career at the North Miami Campus. But once the consolidation plan was announced, he chose to finish his education at the Charlotte Campus. One amusing reason for choosing Charlotte sticks out: “I get lost easily. I have no sense of direction, so I chose the smaller campus,” he explains.

Marquez shows off his escabeche, mofongo and tostones platter.After just two days on his new campus, Marquez was chosen as “Chef of the Day” in the sophomore-level Global à la Carte class. He taught his classmates how to create a common Puerto Rican meal of escabeche made with pickled fish; mofongo (mashed plantains with bacon); and tostones (twice-fried plantains). “This is a dish I grew up on,” he notes. “What I like is making people happy with what I am cooking.”

Marquez enjoyed creating and sharing his native dish with the class. Although the recipe and cooking process aren’t quite the same as how he’d make this meal back home, he appreciates the experience of making it a bit differently. “We simmer our escabeche for hours, which of course we can’t do here because we don’t have time. And I use more spices. I told my mom to send me a care package of spices!”

“Think about how nervous he must have been leaving one campus and going to another in a new city,” notes Master Instructor Fred Tiess. “He is part of the JWU family and I wanted him to feel right at home. The first week of class, he is already a leader!”

Luis de Jesus Marquez '23