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PTC Culinary Camp inspires aspiring high school chefs

June 14, 2023

Chef Felix working with a student at culinary camp

Dunedin High School junior Kiyona Devine spends a lot of time in the kitchen at home, but up until a week ago, she didn’t know how to properly hold a knife to chop an onion.

Now, not only can she dice an onion and chiffonade basil, but she can make homemade pizza dough and flip an omelet with the best of them.  

“I love watching videos and throwing together random stuff at the house to see what I can make,” said Devine, one of four Pinellas County Schools high school students attending Pinellas Technical College’s culinary summer camp. “Cooking is a really good way to express ourselves.”

If it were up to Chef Felix Sestayo, who runs the camp, everyone would give cooking a try. He began at the age of 14 cooking with his grandparents and graduated from the PTC culinary arts program 13 years ago.

“I want to help find a passion for these kids,” said Sestayo, who has worked at several local staples such as Teak at the St. Petersburg Pier and The Lure in downtown St. Pete. “If I can take a basic life skill and help build something out of it, that’s awesome.”

During week one, campers had already pickled onions, made mayonnaise, learned how to hold a knife, made homemade pizza dough and pasta, and made their own scratch marinara sauce. Many of them agreed that one of the best parts is getting to eat their creations.

“I’ve always had a passion for cooking,” said Bryce Marion, an incoming freshman at Osceola Fundamental High School. “(Chef Felix) is really nice. He’s made me more confident when I cook.”

Bayside High School student Benji Edwards stumbled upon cooking when choosing an elective class and decided he really liked it. His goal is to learn butchery, and he enjoys having the younger chefs look up to him. He said he loves Chef Felix’s enthusiasm and has enjoyed learning from him.

“If I’m able to share my passion and it rubs off on people, my life is complete,” Sestayo said. “I love it.”