At 23, EVIT alumni Gabriel Garfio is already experiencing success in the culinary industry as executive chef and co-owner of Sunnyside Breakfast Lounge, a popular east Mesa restaurant specializing in healthy breakfasts and juices.
After completing the Culinary Arts program at the East Valley Institute of Technology in 2011, Garfio, a graduate of Gilbert’s Highland High School, enrolled in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Colorado. He found that he was already several steps ahead of his college peers.
“Having the skills and knowledge that I learned at EVIT made it easy for my transition into another culinary school,” he said. “Now that I had all the basics under my belt … I was striving to another level where most had not yet begun because the university was their first step.”
Culinary Arts & Commercial Baking programs are among 40 advanced career training programs that EVIT, a public joint technical education district (JTED), offers at two central campuses in Mesa and Apache Junction High School.
High school students who reside in 10 East Valley school districts – Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert, Higley, J.O. Combs, Queen Creek, Fountain Hills and Apache Junction – can attend EVIT’s central campuses tuition-free. They take academic courses at their high school and then spend a half-day at EVIT training for careers in culinary arts, health care, welding, firefighting and more. Tuition-based programs for adults are also offered, with financial aid available for those who qualify.
The Culinary Arts & Commercial Baking programs at EVIT are taught by professional chefs and nationally accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation. Upon completion, students are prepared to take ACFEF exams for national certification as a Junior Culinarian or Secondary Culinary Graduate.
EVIT culinary students gain considerable hands-on experience through EVIT’s commercial kitchen, bakery and banquet hall at the Main Campus, and by working at Bistro 13, a Mesa restaurant operated by the EVIT culinary program.
The students also have the opportunity to participate in externships at Valley restaurants, and they can earn dual enrollment college credits through Scottsdale Community College or Central Arizona College.
After graduating with an associate in science of culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales in Denver, Garfio returned to Arizona where he partnered with his parents to open the Sunnyside Breakfast Lounge. He also served as a judge on Food Ball, a local culinary game show, and is now interested in branching out into the “farm to table” organic gardening and cooking business.
He credits the success he’s achieved at such a young age to the EVIT chefs who “ignited my passion” for culinary arts. “The skills I learned at EVIT are priceless,” he said.
Students at EVIT’s central campuses have a 98 percent high school graduation rate, 2 out of 3 go to college, and 85 percent are in college, jobs or the military within one year of their EVIT training. Nearly every program prepares students to earn professional licenses or certifications. Information: www.evit.com
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