Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Culinary Student Goes the Extra Mile on Class Assignment

An Art Institute of California – Orange County student organized a canned food drive and cooking lesson for emancipated youth from Olive Crest

For some students, a homework assignment ends as soon as they receive their grade, but for Deborah Gillespie, a Culinary Management student at The Art Institute of California – Orange County, it was just the beginning.

Gillespie’s initial assignment was to develop a weekly menu plan for Olive Crest at-risk youth emancipated from the system now living on their own. Gillespie took it a step further and organized a food drive and cooking workshop.

“When I was working on the menus, I realized that the recipes needed to appeal to the kids visually,” Gillespie said. “I thought if we could get the food donated, I could work with the culinary department to bring the kids to the school kitchens and bring the menus to life.”

Just four weeks after placing collection bins all over the school, Gillespie was able to deliver six full boxes of canned food to Olive Crest.

“As word began to spread about what we were doing, students started asking what else they could do,” Gillespie said. “Once I knew there was volunteer interest, I worked with the culinary academic director, Chef Daniel Mattos, to coordinate the cooking workshop.”

She knew she had her work cut out for her when she realized the workshop would take place during finals week but she was able to recruit four other students and one alumnus. On Friday, June 12, a group of teens from Olive Crest came to The Art Institute of California – Orange County to receive hands on training from the students and instructor Chef Larry Milner.

“The goal of this workshop was to teach the kids not only a few recipes but also to help them gain some life skills,” Gillespie said. “We also thought it would be great if it sparked their interest in culinary arts.”

Dressed in professional chef coats, the Olive Crest kids spent the evening learning how to cook one of three chicken dishes and how to plant and grow their own herbs. The group enjoyed their homemade meal together and everyone went home with some basic kitchen utensils and a copy of the recipes they’d learned to make.

“Getting to work with the culinary students in a professional kitchen was a tremendous experience for these kids,” said Tamara Koch, Community Involvement Manager for Olive Crest. “The chef coats were a huge hit and everyone wanted to know when they could do it again.”

Due to the success of the first workshop, The Art Institute of California – Orange County will be hosting another group from Olive Crest on Friday, September 11.

“As an instructor, I’m proud to watch my students develop as future chefs,” said Chef Milner. “It is even better to watch them use the skills they learned in the classroom to do something for the community.”

Student volunteers:
Angel Esparza, alumnus
Ben Nichols
Kay Dupaloa
Mallory Saunders
Oscar Villanueva

Media Contacts
Tricia Cook at or 714.338.1303
Veronica Orozco at or 714.830.0221

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