Jose Castellano’s hard work and culinary talents opened doors he never thought possible. But the pandemic forced him to make a difficult choice: take a step back or begin a new professional challenge. Opting for the latter, he took the wheel with Dot Transportation.
Jose’s first taste of the Chicago restaurant scene came shortly after he immigrated to the United States at the age of 20 and landed a job as a dishwasher.
“I didn’t want to be a dishwasher all my life, so I tried to learn as best as I could how to cook,” he said. He enrolled in a local program where he discovered a passion and natural talent that would define his culinary career: pastries.
“Cooking is very complicated and lots of people are chefs, but pastries require different skills. I went to pastry school and became a master of pastries.”
Jose began experimenting and refining his talents as a pastry chef and worked to develop his own unique styles and flavors. From cakes to ice cream to candies to truffles, Jose could do it all. His skills eventually led him into the kitchens of some of Chicago’s most glamorous hotels where people from all over the world could experience his intricate and delicious creations first-hand.
Aiming to make his signature pastries even more accessible to the Chicago masses, Jose and a friend opened their own pastry business. Unfortunately, timing was not on their side and their business, like so many others, felt the financial impact of the pandemic’s earliest stages.
“It was depressing because you put a lot of money and effort into opening your own business, but Covid closed lots of businesses,” he said. “I didn’t have enough money to invest more and more and I didn’t know how long we’d be closed. I made the tough decision to sell my partnership and do something else.”
For Jose, it was on to a new challenge. And he didn’t know exactly what that might be.
“I was without a job and looking everywhere for new opportunities,” he said.
He found out-of-town opportunities to continue his career as a pastry chef, but wasn’t ready to uproot his family and leave Chicago. He noticed that truck driving companies seemed to always be advertising and was surprised to learn that he could make even more as a driver than as a chef.
“I told my wife I had never done it, it would be something new, maybe fun,” he said. “ So I went to school and learned how to drive.”
He enrolled in trucking school where he struck up a conversation with Dot Transportation Assistant Transportation Manager Abel Sida. Abel outlined what Jose could expect as a DTI truck driver and he liked what he saw.
Jose earned his CDL, got hired on at DTI, and began his career as a regional driver for DTI Chicago. He has a regular schedule and since he’s not traveling more than four or five hours from the DC, he’s able to come home for a couple nights each week.
Having never driven a large vehicle before, Jose says that it can be intimidating taking the wheel of a big rig, but that intimidation factor fades over time.
“It’s easy but not easy,” he said. “But don’t be scared. It’s a big truck and can be scary in the beginning…When you’re used to it, it’s just like a regular car. There’s nothing to be scared of. Just follow the rules of the road and you’ll be fine.”
On special occasions, Jose will still get the urge to whip up a batch of lemon cakes or raspberry tarts for family and friends–something easy, he clarifies, that won’t make much of a mess in his home kitchen.
“I hate to do recipes and clean my own dishes at the same time. I need an assistant and I don’t have that at home,” he says jokingly.
“I still love cooking. It’s still inside of me. I did it for 30 years. I get the urge to do it every so often, but I don’t do it much. I’m focused on my current career.”