(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The sound of a sizzling ribeye steak, the aroma of lemon-garlic-butter shrimp, and the moist texture of a molten chocolate cake.
Experiences like these, along with his kitchen expertise, are what Texas State Technical College graduate Hipolito Garcia brings to his culinary students at San Benito High School.
Garcia earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts from TSTC in 2017.
While he was enrolled at TSTC, he assisted lead culinary instructor Emma Creps in a recruitment event at Brownsville’s Hanna High School. He enjoyed the engagement with the students, and the experience would be the deciding factor in his career transition after graduation.
After earning his degree, Garcia began teaching at the Windham School District, one of the largest correctional education systems in the nation.
“My experience at Windham was very rewarding,” he said. “What I enjoyed is that these individuals were eager to learn because culinary is very much hands-on.”
After two years, Garcia was ready for the next phase of his career. He applied for the Culinary Arts instructor position at San Benito High School, and he was hired the following day.
Garcia recalled his first year of teaching being difficult due to COVID-19 with online learning. Then the high school returned to in-person learning at the start of this school year.
Rodolfo Ramirez, principal of San Benito High School, said Garcia has high standards for his craft and skill in the kitchen.
“Chef Garcia has led a brand-new Culinary Arts program through a challenging remote-learning year,” he said. “The impact he has made on our school community by sharing his own talents, skills and love for cooking with students, staff and even our parents by the way he leads the Culinary Arts program is incredible.”
Garcia said witnessing his students’ motivation pleases him.
“One of their favorite dishes is chicken cordon bleu,” he said. “The final product was breaded chicken breast, stuffed with ham, bacon, spinach and mozzarella cheese, topped with Mornay cheese sauce. The sides were mashed potatoes and broccoli.”
Garcia’s success has also led to an increase in student requests to enroll in his class.
Fernando Rosa, career and technology director for San Benito High School, noted that the chef’s dedication to the success of the program played a major role in getting it off the ground.
“The students’ participation in culinary events and the quality of the products they have produced has really improved,” he said.
Garcia plans to participate in the high school’s after-school program beginning in January. He will teach basic culinary elements.
The yearly median salary in Texas for chefs and head cooks is over $56,000, with more than 7,700 chefs needed by 2028, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website.
TSTC’s Culinary Arts program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and several certificates of completion at the East Williamson County, Harlingen and Waco campuses.
Registration for the spring semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.