When I grow up: Justus is his name, but cooking is his game

OKEECHOBEE — With a name like Justus, you might think he would have a future as a lawyer, but 7-year-old Justus Cole dreams of being a chef when he grows up. He said he likes to cook the things he likes to eat, especially cookies, cakes and hotdogs!

Seven-year-old Justus Cole dreams of being a chef when he grows up

Ironically, this week’s grown up chef, Jules Ayuso, wanted a career in the law when he was a child. He said he dreamed of being an NYPD detective like his dad when he was growing up, but his dad did not really encourage him to do that so he looked in other directions. Born and raised in New York, Mr. Ayuso is not sure how he ended up in small town Okeechobee.

He said his friends back home joke he must be in the Witness Protection Program, but he said the real reason is he “fell in love with a ‘Chobee girl and ain’t been right since.”

Because of his contract with the Witness Protection Program, Mr. Ayuso is unable to give out his date of birth or the year he graduated, but he did say it was a very long time ago. He grew up in Brooklyn with his two brothers and a sister and attended John Jay High School.

His favorite subjects were English and Home Economics. He was a member of the Glee Club, The Cooking Club and the school track team. According to him, he joined the first two with his best friend as a way to meet girls. “I was young,” he said. “Little did I know I would have a knack for the culinary arts.” He always enjoyed school because he had good friends, and the faculty liked him too.

In college, he majored in marketing and public relations, but marketing was his favorite. He said he doesn’t really have a favorite college memory, but he does remember one day realizing he wasn’t scared anymore and he really could do it. He decided on that career because he wanted to be the Advertising’s next boy-wonder, but it didn’t work out quite as planned. When he graduated, there was a hiring freeze in the advertising field. He sent a very creative letter to Mr. Ed Wax, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi the largest and best advertising firm in New York City at the time, telling him how much he looked up to him and would love to work for his firm. Unfortunately, all he got in reply was a rejection letter and an 8×10 of Mr. Wax.

Mr. Ayuso’s first job was as a paper boy, then a bus boy and dishwasher, which was also his least favorite job. When he received the rejection letter from Mr. Wax, Mr. Ayuso was working as a head bartender for the Best Western in Boston and the general manager heard of his rejection letter. He offered him the night food & beverage manager position so in a way, his field chose him. He said he has been working as a chef for 20ish years, but as stated previously, he cannot be more specific. He currently works out of town, approximately an hour and a half drive.

His career has given him a sense of pride and meaning but more than that, he said, if it wasn’t for his career sending him to work in Florida he would never have met his beautiful bride. When asked who was the biggest influence in his life, he said he used to think something entirely different, more materialistic would be the word or chasing the dollar now however, his Pastor John Garner has shown him the most important things in life are God, Family and Friends.

He and his wife have been together for 16 years and married for 12, and he said they have one beautiful, smart and loving little girl and one dumb dog named Jack Murray Ayuso. In his spare time, Mr. Ayuso enjoys trying to find time with his bride, cooking with his daughter, going on cruises and family outings. “It seems as I get older I seem to really appreciate time with my family. That’s all I need. I’m happiest when Danielle and Madison are smiling and we’re all together with our extended family members. That’s what it’s all about. All in all I’m a pretty lucky guy,” said Mr Ayuso.

We will have to wait a few years to see if Justus’ dreams come true, but in the meantime, I have it on good authority that he can make a mean batch of cookies if anyone needs a helper for the holidays.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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