WHITTIER >> The California High School Culinary Arts Academy named one of its kitchens after a longtime supporter during a ceremony Wednesday.
Marco Zapien, owner and executive chef at Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria in his hometown of Pico Rivera, was praised for his volunteer work with students for the past 15 years.
“He’s been an integral part of this program,” said lead academy teacher Corey Duarte.
She thanked Zapien, who is part of the day-to-day operations of Salsa Grill along with his father, Jess Zapien, for his countless hours of volunteering to impart his professional wisdom.
“He shows them the fundamentals of cooking,” Duarte said.
He follows family recipes, prepares the dishes in front of the students and shows them what it takes to be successful in the culinary industry.
“I love to teach,” said Zapien, who is a graduate of the Los Angeles Culinary Institute.
He also tries to let students know they can achieve their dreams because he is just like them.
“I’m just a kid from Pico,” Zapien said.
Zapien said he wants students to know they, like him, can serve as head chef at Angel Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Staples Center and other sports and entertainment venues, and serve as the corporate chef for Melissa’s Produce.
“He is so inspiring,” said student Alex Anchondo, 17. “He shows that not everyone starts at the top, but with hard work you can achieve anything.”
“He’s taught us that it doesn’t matter where you come from, but the hard work you put into making your dreams come true,” added fellow senior Jayla Beltran, 17.
The academy divides students into smaller individual groups or “kitchens” for more hands-on experience and an interactive learning environment. A few of the other chefs these kitchens are named after include Julia Child, Duff Goldman and Bobby Flay.