Former Culinary Arts Student Opens Unique Restaurant, Catering Business
Friday, July 12, 2013
Rudy Piña never knew he loved cooking.
And even when he enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at Texas State Technical College, Piña wasn’t sure he really belonged.
Piña graduated from Weslaco High School in 1999 and started taking classes at TSTC that fall. But it wasn’t until 2001 when Piña decided to declare a major and gave the kitchen a shot. That year, the program changed names from Food Service Technology to Culinary Arts.
“I was never really into cooking,” Piña said. “Even through my first semester, I was always joking around and not taking it serious. My GPA was bad. I had really bombed when I first started in 99. So I had to talk to the instructors to let them give me a second chance. By that second semester, I got my act together and started getting serious.”
Piña’s decision to get serious over 10 years ago continues to pay off today.
A couple of years ago, the 31-year old Piña and his wife Shasta took a leap of faith and opened a restaurant/catering operation called I Cook U Eat.
I Cook U Eat offers a unique concept to patrons. Instead of browsing through a menu before ordering, customers pay up front when they walk in and receive a plate of whatever Piña’s prepared that day.
Piña prepares something different everyday but it’s the only dish for that day. The restaurant is opened from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Piña eventually wants to focus on the catering side of the business only and hopes that by buying his dishes at the restaurant, customers can get an idea of what Pina has to offer.
Piña had worked every from the Weslaco school district to a couple of hospitals in the Valley. But in the back of his mind, he always knew he wanted to run his own business.
“I wanted to do something but I didn’t have money,” Piña said. “I had plenty of excuses to not open a business but one day we just started driving around and found this place. I pulled out my 401k, took out a $20,000 loan and rented the building. There was no looking back for us now. I had no second job so it was either make it or fall flat on the concrete.”
The leap’s paid off for Piña, who sees a steady crowd every day buying his food.
Piña also offers cooking lessons and nutrition classes. The cooking lessons cost $25 per hour and Piña said most classes take about two hours. The nutrition classes are free.