El Paso, Texas-- The sound of cheering fans is back at Southwest University Park and so is the smell of hot dogs, nachos, burgers and more.
For Executive Chef Maria Barragon Hurtado, being able to provide ballpark guests with her delicious creations is something she takes pride in.
“Just being able to provide that little piece of joy that satisfies their stomach when they come to eat here at the ballpark is something I enjoy doing,” said Chef Maria.
Becoming a chef wasn’t always the plan for Chef Maria.
“I was going to UTEP and studying to be an English teacher and I eventually wanted to become a counselor,” Said Chef Maria. "That was my dream job but this took me on a different journey. I worked in the food industry when I was younger and I just fell in love with it."
Chef Maria has been working at Southwest University Park for nearly 10 years. She started off working concessions at Chico’s Cantina, then became a suite supervisor and worked her way up to becoming Executive Chef for Southwest University Park.
Her love for cooking began at a young age and she was able to perfect her cooking skills by learning from other chefs.
“Throughout the years that I've been here I have worked with other chefs here and I've been able to learn different things from them as well so I've gained that experience from them,” said Chef Maria.
This year’s ballpark menu includes items like loaded carnitas nachos, Borunda hot dogs, and other dishes inspired by El Paso’s culture.
Chef Maria’s days begin at 10 in the morning and during game days they usually wrap up close to midnight.
“By the end of the day it's 11:30 at night close to midnight and I'm making sure all the dishes are washed and then I get ready for the next day,” said Chef Maria.
Although the days are long, Chef Maria takes pride in creating one-of-a-kind dishes to make the ballpark experience a good one for fans.
“After being here for 10 years I never thought I would be in this position at all and I never gave up,” said Chef Maria. "I kept pursuing and pushing and I am where I am now because of that.”
She has some advice for other women who may be afraid to take that leap into a career out of their comfort zone.
“Definitely don't stop dreaming and never put yourself down,” said Chef Maria. "I think we’re all capable of many things and we all have potential and it's just bascially putting it all into action and striving to accomplish what you want to accomplish in life.”