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La Penita Conalep Graduating Chefs Showcase Their Skills
Tara A. Spears - Sol
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June 28, 2011
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La Penita Conalep Graduating Chefs Showcase Their Skills
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Thirty seven young and talented chefs scurried about setting up a luscious buffet that consisted of each graduating student’s best culinary effort after completing the three year training program.

Adriana Gallegos Garcia, confessed, “I’m so nervous! What is no one likes my dishes?”

The annual culinary arts (Muestra Gastronomica) exhibit is important to the students because the event invites government dignitaries, hotel and restaurant managers (think job offers), besides their families. As if that isn’t enough pressure, the students also earn a grade for their entries.

The mouth watering display was impressive, consisting of: appetizers, beverages, fruits, side dishes, entrees of beef, chicken, pork and seafood; and my personal favorite - yummy desserts.

The lead Conalep teachers (maestros), Letty Jimenez and Soyla Leon, emceed the program. In addition, the students created a power point show that highlighted the culinary studies and the dazzling Conalep student folkloric dancers strutted their stuff through three examples of different regional dances.

What brought down the house is that one of the future chefs is also a professional singer, and when he belted out excellent rancho music, the previously serious looking students in their formal chef hats morphed into typical young adults: shrieks, swaying to the music, leaping out to swing around the stage with the dashing crooner.

It wasn’t just the students that were on their feet - several mothers leaped onto the stage to sashay to the beat - and probably embarrass their child for life. Joyous!

Just when I thought that the program couldn’t get any better, the audience was invited to line up to partake of the buffet. The food tasted as good as it looked.

What it means to graduate from Conalep:

The acronym "CONALEP" stands for Colegio Nacional de Educacion Profesional Technical, which is Mexico’s largest technical education system that serves low-income students at the upper secondary level, similar to grades 10-12 north of the border.

Created in December of 1978, by 1986 all 31 states had a Conalep facility. Although 29 training areas are offered nationwide, not all campuses provide all areas of training.

Programs include commerce, chef, administration, nursing, computing, accounting, building trades, and manufacturing skills. Generally, Conalep graduates find jobs in their field much faster than those without a diploma, besides receiving higher salary because of their training.

Upon graduation, the students are bestowed the title “technical professional – baccalaureate” (profesional técnico – bachiller.) The Conalep program involves 35% general subjects and 65% vocational focus, and all students are required to complete 360 hours of practical training in their area of concentration.

Based on attending the recent food expo, the culinary training appears to be excellent. Since attending Conalep is tuition based, support the Riviera Nayarit non-profit organizations that provide scholarships to local students - those fundraising events have a long lasting impact on the local community.

For more information about Conalep, go to

+ Wexico

Best wishes for the future and congratulations to all the 2011 Conalep graduates for a job well done!

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