(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Cheesecake, cookies and the tradition of baking with her mom inspired Ayla Cabarubio to pursue a career in culinary arts. The Mercedes native turned her childhood dream of making people smile with something sweet into a rewarding career at Texas State Technical College. Now, not only is she continuing to fulfill her own aspirations, she is also helping students whip up theirs.
“My love of pastries and baking really helped me realize that this was my passion,” she said. “It started with my mom, who is a home cook and loves to bake. I remember always being in the kitchen trying to help, even when I couldn’t see over the counter.”
The excitement that comes from another person appreciating your skills in food preparation is what helped drive Cabarubio to her career.
“As I got older, I always enjoyed someone’s immediate reaction of joy when tasting something that I prepared,” she said. “It’s such an honest emotion and one of the best feelings for me.”
Chef Cabarubio joined TSTC as an instructor in the Culinary Arts program in January 2017. Since then, not only has she helped students grow their skills for creating palate-pleasing treats, she has also grown in her appreciation for the curriculum at TSTC.
“The variety of techniques that are covered in the Culinary Arts program to prepare students for high-paying jobs is very unique,” she said. “Students don’t just learn how to cook and bake; they also develop an understanding of how to own or manage a business.”
While the program emphasizes the art of food preparation, there are also more techniques covered. One of the required courses is Management of Food Production and Service, which educates students on producing their own menus and running a live kitchen, giving them the real-world skills needed for their future careers.
“We teach students how to break down recipes to find costs and how to effectively manage a team,” she said. “We train our students to look at culinary arts from the supervisor’s perspective. When they complete the program, they are not only well-versed cooks, but they also have that supervisor mindset that gives them the edge in the industry.”
Helping to create the next generation of food service managers, head cooks and executive chefs is rewarding for Cabarubio, but the biggest prize comes from the awareness that her passion for culinary arts is helping to change a student’s life.
“Knowing that you are part of a student’s stepping stone to success is very rewarding.”
Outside the classroom, Cabarubio doesn’t stray far from her love of creating fine cuisine, even growing her own herbs for one of her favorite dishes.
“I love making pizza,” she said. “I really enjoy making every aspect of it — the dough, the sauce, fresh mozzarella. And I prune my freshly grown basil to add as garnish. You just can’t beat it!”
To learn more about TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, visit tstc.edu/programs/CulinaryArts.