PORT ISABEL — Executive Chef Celia Galindo has dived into the world of culinary arts from just about every aspect of the career.

From providing catering services for celebrities, large companies and movie sets, to opening her own business and restaurant, Galindo has showcased and shared her expertise with many from around the world.

Most recently, Galindo’s talents have led her to teach her first set of students and become the instructor of Point Isabel ISD’s new Culinary Arts Program.

Throughout Galindo’s 34 years as a chef, she often helped many become chefs by helping them train and prepare for exams, however, she never imagined herself teaching in a classroom setting.

After a fateful paella delivery to Point Isabel ISD’s Superintendent Teri A. Capistran, Galindo was asked to consider joining the school district.

“She told me she wants culinary arts at her school and thought I would be the perfect candidate,” Galindo recalled. “I turned 60 this year, and I had been doing this for so long so I told her I loved the idea.”

Galindo has been a chef since she was 17, but never taught children or had been in a classroom setting before, so she felt ready to share what she has learned throughout her career.

“I was supposed to retire at 50, and I’m not even close,” Galindo said with a laugh and smile. “I wake up every morning loving what I do.”

This year, Galindo is teaching 80 students that range from ninth to 12th grade.

“Now with the kids, I feel like I’m in Disneyland,” Galindo said. “I have a lot of fun with them and can see in their eyes what I used to feel at that age where they’re learning.”

From France and Mexico to Spain and New Orleans, Galindo has traveled around the world studying and training in culinary arts.

One of the first topics Galindo began teaching her students this year was how to make Indian food.

“We went through India learning about mandalas and mantras and then they learned how to make biryani, curries, samosas and chapati,” she said. “They never thought they’d like Indian food, but the moment they made it by themselves and had to try everything, they thought it tasted good.”

Galindo plans to teach her students how to make wedding cakes next semester.

“The students said I really challenge them and that they love it because they’ve learned so much in this class. I know I’m in the right place,” Galindo said. “I think I can make a difference in their lives or make a little bit of love in their hearts.”

Galindo’s career began with catering for businesses and educational institutions, such as The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

“I would cater everything from two people to 400,” Galindo said. “We’d do graduations, cotillions and whatever was going on. If there’s important people coming, we would take care of them the whole time they were there.”

Galindo’s catering business continued to grow so she decided to open her restaurant “La Escondida” five years ago in Brownsville and is currently in the process of opening another restaurant in Matamoros.

“It started as a private restaurant for maquiladoras or people who needed a private restaurant because 14 years ago a lot of these maquiladoras needed a place instead of renting a hotel and having a caterer to talk of things that were maybe top secret or they didn’t want somebody to hear so they started renting my restaurant,” Galindo explained.

When a client brought up the idea of opening a restaurant, Galindo and her mother thought it was a good idea and decided to go for it.

“Outside it looks like a bodega. You’ll never think it’s a restaurant, but once you go in, it’s like going into your tia’s house,” Galindo said. “There’s tables all around and it’s very cozy.”

“La Escondida” offers a variety of cuisines from chile rellenos de camarón to German pork chops and enchiladas suizas.

“It’s been a good ride,” Galindo said. “I love what I do.”

For Galindo, what she cherishes most about her career is being able to have her family with her throughout it.

“My mom has been a powerhouse,” Galindo said. “Whenever I lose hope of anything, she’s always there.”