CTE programs collaborate on food truck challenge

Culinary Arts students enlist peers from Commercial Art as they bring concepts into reality

student works on artistic designsPicture this: a food truck, with a smiling, cartoon character taco on the side inviting passersby to enjoy their choice of hard shell or soft shell, chicken, beef or fish, spicy or mild — and while there, maybe some friendly conversation and a personal connection.

This is the brainchild of Kailey Leon, a Culinary Arts student from New Rochelle.

“I don’t know if there’s any way to do it,” Kailey said to her creative partner Yaeliz Baerga, “but to make it so that you could have a little taco guy on this side peeking his head out and saying, ‘Let’s Taco!’”

Yaeliz, a Commercial Art student, also from New Rochelle, loved the idea.

“I’m going to have so much fun designing this guy,” she said.

“I hope you do,” Kailey told her. She is glad to have the help of someone with Yaeliz's skillset to make this project a reality. 

The taco concept stems from her sense that tacos bring people together to talk and eat in a uniquely social way, she said. It’s an extension of her personality to want to have a business that accomplishes the same thing.

instructor and students work on projects

The collaboration between Yaeliz and Kailey is one of several taking place between the two programs. Chef John Damiani turned to fellow instructor Damian Powers, whose Commercial Art students are a perfect match to make this project a reality.

Each Culinary Arts student must develop an original business plan for a food truck. Beyond the basic concept, they must come up with an artistic design, logo, menu, pricing plan and social media marketing plan. Only then will they apply their culinary skills to a cook-off challenge.

Besides excellent cuisine, Culinary Arts is also about the business and all that it takes to succeed in a competitive industry. That’s what Chef Damiani prepares his students to do. A food truck is a great way to build a successful business from the ground up, he said.

instructor and culinary students at a table

Sometimes a business needs to hire a professional consultant, like a graphic designer. Enter the Commercial Art program. Mr. Powers’s students match up well with many of the campus’s 20 CTE programs for collaborations like this.

“This is yet another opportunity for our students to gain real-world-type work experience,” Mr.  Powers said. “These chefs are the clients, and it’s the responsibility of my designers to meet their needs. That’s a valuable lesson.”

Emma Stockhausen of New Rochelle is developing a plan for “Em’s Panadas,” working with designer Ashley Solis of Valhalla. Ashley suggests capturing the White Plains skyline in the truck’s exterior design. 

“She’s helping me,” Emma said, “because I definitely have certain ideas in mind, and she’s adding her creativity.”