Josue Mendez's last day of class

Remembering ICE Alum Josue Mendez

The ICE community reflects on Josue's smile, love of food, persistence and success before his life was cut short.

Josue (Joshua) Mendez embarked on his journey to find his culinary voice at our Los Angeles campus in September 2018. At just 18-years-old, Josue enrolled in Culinary Arts, saying his goal was to become a “well-known chef and cook, making sophisticated plates and platters.” Here, those who knew him commemorate the short time he had to do so.

Sadly, on Friday, July 24, Josue died tragically in an automobile accident at the young age of 20, according to a GoFundMe campaign in his honor. Though he was unable to realize his dream of becoming a chef-owner, he nonetheless left a lasting impression on those who knew him in the food world and for a brief time, expressed his newfound culinary voice.

Director of Education Herve Guillard remembers Josue as a kind student. “He always had a very polite demeanor — smiling, quiet, but with a good sense of humor,” Chef Herve said. “He blossomed and acquired confidence while he attended ICE.”

Early on, he displayed potential for kitchen life with persistence. “If a recipe didn’t turn out the way it should, it didn’t faze him,” says former Chef-Instructor Leicel Ros. “He would push through and he was always consistent in making sure that he wasn’t down. If he didn’t get it right the first time, he would keep trying.”

Josue’s positive attitude attracted others to seek out his friendship and advice. “He had an infectious smile and that really made other students gravitate to him,” Chef Leicel added. “He had such a bright future.”

Though more than 10 years his senior, former classmate Juan Fonseca (Culinary, ’19) says he drew motivation from Josue. Last summer, Josue launched a business preparing pizzas and pies that influenced Juan to follow in Josue’s footsteps. “I saw what he was doing and it made me want to do my own pop-up,” Juan explains. Josue gave him advice on how to set out on this new path, including how to attract customers and capitalize on social media. “For being such a young guy, he inspired me a lot.”


A post shared by Juan Jose fonseca 🔪 (@jfons87) on

Director of Career Services Rebecca Freeman and Senior Career Services Advisor Mallory Rajan share their memories of Josue.

“He came in with his parents and talked about how much he loved cooking and watching the Food Network,” Mallory remembers. “He was interested in plating and wanted to know more about proper cooking techniques.” At the time, Josue shared that cooking made him happy and that he was inspired to attend culinary school by his uncle who was a chef. “He had dreams to open his own restaurant one day,” Mallory says.

“He was an extremely sweet person and kind student,” Rebecca says. “He was excited about his education and working in the industry.”

On his last day in class, March 13, 2019, Josue celebrated with his fellow classmates. Sharing his excitement on social media: “These past eight months have been the most greatest and life-changing months. I have been opened to new opportunities and I’m so grateful for this team.”

He went on to complete his externship hours at Tao, a massive, multi-level Asian restaurant in Hollywood, under the guidance of Corporate Chef Wing Ho. “Josue was a great addition to our team,” Chef Wing says. “He was always was looking to learn something new and was genuinely excited to be there.”

Josue reflected on his experience for an assignment: “I have grown so much and thank Tao chefs for staying on top of me, my work, and myself for pushing and staying teachable as much as possible. This experience has changed the way I see a huge restaurant kitchen work, which I love.” He added, “ICE was a great help to show me from scratch how to properly execute anything that would be asked in the kitchen, and I’m happy to find something I love. And now I’m here with a job that has evolved me into a better person with persistence, responsibility and kitchen knowledge.”

Upon hearing the news of Josue’s passing, Matthew Leung (Culinary, ’19) wrote of his former classmate:

“Josue was one of the people I was closer to. Humorous situations always had a way of finding him. He was kind-hearted and had many talents. I learned that, in addition to cooking, he enjoyed drumming. It wasn’t until I saw a video of him drumming that I learned it was something he actually invested a significant amount of time. We spoke about that from time to time after we graduated. We also spoke about some of the food he had posted because I could see that he had also been growing his skills as a cook since leaving school. In due time, I think he could have done his thing.” Outside of his love for food and music, Josue enjoyed nature, especially getting out to the mountains.

Chef Leicel remembers discovering a hiking trail that Josue recommended. “Sometimes we have these roles [as instructors], but students inspire me too,” she says. “We would talk about things outside of food — passion is passion.”

Josue’s voice will continue to be amplified through the culinary voices of those who knew him.

Pursue life-changing career training.

Submitted by Vicente Valdez on July 30, 2020 11:33pm

This is beautiful. 

Add new comment