Elsa Pena & Oscar Rodriguez, Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts Students

SOM Sep 2021

Who starts making 4,000 tacos at 5 o’clock on a Saturday morning?  Dually enrolled Immokalee High School and Immokalee Technical College student Elsa Pena and Immokalee Techical College Adult student Oscar Rodriguez?   That’s who, and that’s why they are iTECH’s students of the month for September.  WHY were they making 4,000 tacos?  Lipman Family Farms made the request and sponsored the project to distribute the tacos at their annual Lipman Family Farms Backpack Giveaway which was held on August 3.

When asked how one even starts a project as monumental as this, Oscar replied, “I came in and started prepping the food to be cooked.  I opened the chorizo.  You have to make sure it’s cooked to the right temperature.  It has to be good and crisp.  Then I started to cut the potatoes.  It took about two hours to cook all the food.”

Elsa also started cooking.  “I put on my hairnet and my apron, washed my hands and started cooking the chorizo.  I was excited and nervous at the same time!” she remembers.  “When the chorizo, eggs, potatoes, and bacon were cooked we started an assembly line to fill the tacos.”

Oscar, who has always wanted to be a chef, said,  ”The most exciting thing was to actually get the experience myself, first hand.  It was challenging.  There was a lot of time management.”  Oscar is completing his second year in the culinary program.  “I started my senior year in high school, August 16, 2020,” he precisely recalls.  When he graduates from iTECH, Oscar plans to pursue a degree in hospitality management.

Tres leches and strawberry cakes are Elsa’s favorites to make.  The most amazing event she experienced in culinary was learning to make a gingerbread house.  Elsa is completing her second year in the culinary program.  When she graduates from IHS, she will also graduate from iTECH. 

In case you were wondering, Elsa and Oscar were not alone in making 4,000 tacos. iTECH culinary instructor, Terrie Thompson was at the helm.  Lipman Family Farms corporate chef William Wilbur was there.  Sysco sales representative Alberto Chavaria and his wife lent a hand.  Florestella Carranza, iTECH workforce assistant and iTown Café manager brought her daughter Adriana and son Javier to help.  Alma Cisneros, IHS job coach was there.  Former culinary students Billy Jules, Alberto Bonia, Ian Puente, and Yazmin Salvador volunteered.  Culinary summer school students Beatrice Carrera-Lopez, Jazmin Ajtun-Martinez, and Yessica Espiridion-Ignacio volunteered, too.