HCC’s chain cook navigates her way to owning her own food truck

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Cooking has always been a happy place for Mara Vargas-Gonzalez, and now she’s training to turn that passion into a full-time business.

“I started cooking around the age of 8.” said Vargas-Gonzalez. “That’s when my grandmother started teaching me, and I did a lot of volunteering in churches and continued to develop my skills a little more.”

What do you want to know

  • Mara Vargas-Gonzalez is an intern at Holyoke Community College on the free line cook training course
  • Each trainee will receive a certificate at the end of the five-week program
  • Vargas-Gonzalez will take the ServSafe exam at the end of the course to become eligible to work in a commercial kitchen
  • She will start culinary school at Holyoke Community College in the fall and hopes to one day open her own food truck.

Vargas-Gonzalez is currently enrolled in Holyoke Community College’s free five-week line cook training course to provide her with the certification needed to one day fulfill her dream of opening a food truck.

On Wednesday, she and her colleagues spent the morning preparing a chicken for lunch that they will serve tomorrow to a group of visitors.

“We’re just smashing the chicken,” Vargas-Gonzalez said. “And just learning our skills on how to properly cut a chicken.”

Vargas-Gonzales said the kitchen has been a haven since growing up cooking with her grandmother.

But even with her passion, she said taking the next step in learning how to become a certified line cook is no easy task.

“Growing up, we just grabbed the ax and called it a day and cut the chicken into whatever pieces we could get.” said Vargas-Gonzalez. “But learning how to cut it right and how to do it right is a great experience.”

The Culinary Course at Holyoke Community College provides each trainee with a line cook certification upon completion of the program.

The course will also offer each student the opportunity to take the ServSafe exam, which if passed will grant them permission to work in a commercial kitchen.

Vargas-Gonzalez said passing the exam would mean a lot to her and her future goals of one day opening her own food truck.

“Also for me personally, it would be that I finished something that I thought I couldn’t finish,” Vargas-Gonzalez said. “And accomplish and move towards my own goal of having my own business in the future.”

Vargas-Gonzalez said her culinary journey has only just begun as she plans to enroll as a student in the culinary program at Holyoke Community College in the fall.