Zazon Café may sound like your typical restaurant spot inside of Kissimmee's mall Plaza Del Sol, but it’s far from it. It’s actually a hands-on classroom run by Florida Technical College.
Evelyn Candela, originally from Brooklyn, New York, is one of the program’s students. Before moving here, Candela says she was around drugs and hanging out with wrong crowd. She never thought she would wear a chef’s hat.
“Either I was going to end up dead or I was going to end up locked up,” she said.
FTC offers culinary students a blend of in-class lecture and hands-on experience and now it’s adding in a new ingredient. This month, the American Culinary Federation, which consists of executive chefs from Universal, Disney and other big corporations, has started meeting with students in Kissimmee.
“As instructors we want to inspire the future chefs, our students, to get really involved in not just their studies but the community, and get more professional certifications,” said Peter Vossenberg, the incoming Florida Technical College Director of Hospitality Programs.
Candela is looking forward to being mentored by leaders in the culinary industry. “So when you do have chefs that come out to speak to students, it kind of gives them that backbone to let them know that it’s going to be OK,” she said.
FTC doesn’t just teach students how to cook and prepare delicious food but also how to manage their own business.
“It’s a well-rounded experience. You’re going to meet all the different competencies needed to succeed in the field,” said Alex Martinez Zayas, Florida Technical College Director of the Culinary Baking & Pastry Program.
Candela says she wants to touch people with her food and hopes to one day own and run her own food truck.
“The sky is the limit. I am a living testimony that if I can do it anybody could do it, if you put the hard work into it,” she added.
Anyone who wants to become certified under the American Culinary Federation, can now test on site at FTC's Kissimmee campus.