ORLANDO, Fla. – Francisco Cortes, also known as Chef Frankie, said he is blessed to have a job this Labor Day. In March, he was laid off after starting a new job as a chef for B Resort and Spa near Disney.
“Literally seven days in, I got furloughed because the company was laying people off due to COVID,” said Cortes. “It was a huge smack in the face. It just woke me up. It was difficult looking for a job, bills have to get paid. It was tough.”
He said food is his passion and has more than 15 years of experience. He was even a former chef for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
“I got into cooking through family. Spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandparents and developed a love for my craft. I started working in commercial kitchens when I was 13,” said Cortes.
Months into failed job searching, Cortes said he got a call. Someone seeking a meal prep chef for Oklahoma City Shooting Guard, Hamidou Diallo, who was playing in “The Bubble” at Disney. He said cooking for athletes has given him a sense of pride.
“I’ve developed a love for baseball working with the Braves, with basketball taking care of the bubble. When I watched the games I would think ‘wow, I know this guy’s fueled because I made his meals,’” said Cortes.
Through word-of-mouth he also began meal-prepping for families who didn’t want to go to restaurants during the pandemic and doing some catering. His menu, extensive. He went on to create his own company Simple As 123 Meal Prep & Catering.
“I just went for it. I saw an opportunity because people wanted to eat indoors,” said Cortes. “It’s a lot more hours, a lot more effort, but the difference is there’s a self-gratitude, because at the end of the day it’s for me. I’m following my dreams.”
Cortes said support from family and friends helped him get through a tough time in his life. He wants others that may be out of a job to stay positive and continue to follow their dreams.
“Find what you’re passionate about, take the opportunity now. I know it may seem like a crisis, but it’s a blessing because normally you wouldn’t have time to think about this. You’d just be going to work and home,” said Cortes. “Know things are going to get better, they don’t seem like it now. This pandemic can’t last forever... just stay positive.”
Cortes recently secured a commercial kitchen with plans to expand his business.