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High School Senior Chases Culinary Dream

Basketball player is working to finance college on his own; has dream of becoming a chef.

Being one of 13 children has had its advantages for Yadiyah Letellier, 17, one of Glen Cove High School’s students honored for excellence at the “” celebration on March 15.

“Everyone knew who I was,” said Letellier. Raised in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, he said he avoided his environment’s many traps with the help of his older siblings’ reputations. He wouldn’t be picked on or drawn into trouble because people knew whose brother he was, he said.

Watching those siblings excel amid the patterns of destructive behavior which sucked in others around them served as an inspiration for Letellier.

“Growing up in that environment was just – it was harsh,” he said. “You see a lot of failure.”

Not so in his family. Letellier’s parents have been together 26 years, in a marriage made strong, he said, because they treat each other with respect – and still go on dates.

Letellier’s mother, Roslyn Pitt, said she instilled God-loving values in all her children, with an emphasis on responsibility.

“Just be a good, productive human being,” Pitt said of her message.

Letellier has been living that message out, and has much to show for it. He was a starter on the high school’s basketball team this year, helping Big Red to its first playoffs in 22 years. Though he spent his early years moving around and changing friends, he maintains solid friendships in Glen Cove since moving here with his family in 2006.

One of those friends is , the team’s Most Valuable Player for the season who was also transplanted to the community. Letellier said he spotted Beebe alone at a local basketball court and invited him to the Boys and Girls Club. The two became best friends and built a brotherly bond, Letellier said.

“I get along with everybody, you can ask anybody that,” he said. “That makes me wanna pull people in.”

The pair’s hopes for their team this season were ended by Jericho High School in their second playoff game, but Letellier has aspirations for the sport at Monroe College in New Rochelle. He is accepted to start there in September.

As part of his push for scholarship money, he participated in a culinary arts pastry competition at the school, as cooking is his true passion, he said. He won $1,500 with a deep dish apple tart with homemade vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and a chocolate twig rolled in crushed almonds - his version of a menu item he became familiar with at his job in the kitchen of the Glen Head Country Club.

“I like the presentation part,” he said after describing the delicate dessert. He was recently featured on the cooking blog “Chattin in Manhattan,” where he published his essay, “I Am a Chef.”

He writes that his draw to good food traces back to the more than two years he and his family spent in a homeless shelter in Harlem after falling on hard times. There they ate what they were given – “nasty sandwiches” and generally unappetizing meals.

“I want to own a restaurant, maybe become a TV chef,” he said of his current dream, recalling the times he spent watching famous chefs on television from his crowded room, dreaming of a safer and happier world outside the “bubble” he was used to.

To read Letellier’s essay, click here.

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