Four years ago, Israel Ramirez joined the South Texas Independent School District (STISD) Career & Technology Half-Day Program to study Culinary Arts at STISD Medical Professions in Olmito.
Although at the time he did not have a clear understanding of what exactly the program would entail, he recalls that he could not stop thinking about all of the amazing new foods he wanted to try and cook. Little did he know that, after a few years in the program, he would be well on his way to making his dreams of owning his own bakery café come true.
Ramirez appreciates the technique and creativity involved in preparing meals and desserts, and he has always enjoyed watching cooking shows and videos, learning from the many great chefs that have come before him. His taste for culinary arts grew over the years as he watched his mom prepare meals for family get-togethers and parties.
His favorite holiday tradition involves making Bunuelos and hot chocolate with his mom and sister and staying up until midnight on Christmas Eve to open one present and then the rest on Christmas day. Inspired by his mom and sister, he dreamed of one day being as good a cook or better.
Although sometimes his concoctions do not end up working out as well as he imagines, he thoroughly enjoys cooking and coming up with his own combinations of ingredients to mix together to develop a new dish.
He attributes his success in the program to his instructor, Chef Victor Loya, who was firm, encouraging, and provided guidance all along the way. He fondly recognizes Chef Loya’s contributions to promoting his belief in his culinary abilities, “You made me realize that my dream to have my own bakery café, where people can come and relax while enjoying my pastries, breads and meals, is a possibility.”
The pandemic altered Ramirez’ participation in the culinary arts class, as he wrapped up the 2019-2020 school year and participated in the first semester of 2020-2021 from home. Although he admits it has been difficult not being in the Medical Professions kitchen environment with Chef Loya and Miss Rosie, virtual learning has had a positive effect on him personally. “Virtual learning has been a good experience for me because it has made me more responsible and independent. I think it is helping me get ready for classes in college by getting very familiar with all the technology virtual learning requires. My teachers can always be there to help if I have questions.”
As he wraps up his final year in the culinary arts program and prepares for graduation, he is looking forward to a sweet future pursuing the culinary arts program at South Texas College as he continues on his path towards owning his own bakery and café.
Through the STISD Career & Technology Half-Day Program, students with special needs can take the majority of their academic classes at their home high schools and take three career & technology courses and one core academic course at STISD high schools. The purpose of the program is to teach students in a real work environment so they gain a marketable edge in the workforce. Further, students gain the confidence they need to continue their education after high school. Graduates of the program have solid technical and social skills.
Bus transportation is free of charge to all half-day program students, and students have the opportunity to compete in academic extracurricular organizations such as HOSA-Future Health Professionals and SkillsUSA. For additional information, visit http://www.stisd.net or call (956) 514-4257.
Israel's Special Holiday Recipes:
Buñuelos de Viento:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup water
2 tbsp melted butter
¾ tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
2 cups Vegetable oil
½ cup sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon mix
In a bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder & sugar, then mix together well
Add eggs, water, butter, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Gradually whisk in milk and continue mixing until you have a smooth batter.
When ready, preheat 2 cups of oil to 350 degrees F in a medium skillet.
While you preheat, line a baking sheet with paper towels for draining buñuelos.
First dip the metal mold for buñuelos into the hot oil and hold for a few 10-15 seconds. Gently shake off excess oil and press onto clean paper towels to remove excess oil. Carefully dip the hot mold into the batter, making sure you only go up ¾ of the way. It should sizzle! Immerse batter covered mold into the hot oil and hold for 5-6 seconds.
Gently shake it back and forth so it releases the buñuelo into the oil. Fry for just a few more seconds and turn gently, using metal tongs. Fry until golden brown. Transfer cooked fritters to lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat until done. Let cool and dust generously with cinnamon sugar mix.
Grinch Hot Chocolate
1 cup half & half
3 cups milk
1 cup white chocolate chips
Leaf green food coloring
Red heart sprinkles
Christmas mix sprinkles
1. In a saucepan over low heat add half & half, milk and white chocolate chips. Whisk frequently and do not allow to boil. Continue whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is hot.
2. Add just enough food coloring to get a light green color and mix
3. Use a brush or fingertip to rim mugs with corn syrup and sprinkle rim with Christmas mix sprinkles.
4. Fill mugs with hot chocolate, top with whipped cream, heart sprinkles and Christmas sprinkles