Amid a still struggling economy, the recent Gifts from the Earth event, benefitting the South Seattle Community College Foundation raised over $210,000 for programs to support students, scholarships, internships, emergency funding, tutoring and equipment.
Fifteen celebrity chefs, including six graduates of South’s program, donated time, food, and staff for the event. Along with current students, alumni, and interns, the chefs executed 4-5 course menus serving a sold-out room of over 300 guests. Additionally, throughout the evening nineteen alumni winemakers participated from as near as Cloudlift Cellars in Georgetown, to Bougetz Cellars in Napa, California.Or, perhaps it is exactly due to the struggling economy that the event did so well.
This event highlights two of the school’s most outstanding, and effective, educational programs: the highly ranked Culinary Arts program and the Northwest Wine Academy. Culinary Arts alumna Candis Outsen shared her story during the “Fund-A-Dream” portion of the evening driving home the way the programs change lives. A young mother who had lost her job, Candis made the decision to follow her passion for cooking and enroll in the program. She worked hard and made the Dean’s List, but her funds were running low. Just when it looked like she could no longer afford to stay in the program, she learned about an opportunity for a Foundation Scholarship. She applied, got it, and finished the program with a 3.8 GPA. She is now employed at Emerald Cove Catering, one of the businesses contributing to the event. Candis inspired attendees to give a total of $58,000 for “Fund-A-Dream,” alone.
What’s noteworthy is that Candis’ success is not unique. Recognized as one of the top programs in the country by the National Restaurant Association, the culinary arts program has a placement rate that is between 95 and 100 percent upon completion. Let me say that again – placement rate is between 95% and 100% for grads. What could be more relevant in this economy?
The magic bullet here is that the programs, offering either a Bachelors or Associate degree, include relevant, hands-on experiences in production, service, management, pastry and specialty baking, all with impressive class ratios of 15 students to 1 instructor.
The program sends students out into the world with experience through internships at high-end local hotels and restaurants, and in three outlets on the South campus which are open to the public: A retail pastry shop – Bernie’s Place, a casual dining cafe – Café Alki (open Monday – Friday from 11 AM – 12:50 PM, current menu), and a formal dining room – Alhadeff Grill (open for lunch starting at 11 AM – 12:50 PM weekdays). Additionally, special three-course “Connoisseur Luncheons” occur throughout the quarter through the Alhadeff Grill. Check here for current menu with the dates for this current quarter.
Not to be overshadowed is the Northwest Wine Academy, which offers programs in winemaking, wine marketing & sales, and food & wine pairing. The program and its tasting room are housed in the brand new, state-of-the-art, sustainably-built Wine Technology Building, which opened last year.
The results of this program are award-winning wineries such as Cloudlift Cellars, decorated with three medals at the recent San Francisco Chronicle 2014 Wine Competition, as well as nine 2013 Seattle Wine Award winners: Cairdeas, Convergence Zone Cellars, Davenport Cellars, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Patterson, Rolling Bay, Stottle, Twin Cedars Winery, and Two Brothers Winery.
With a student-teacher ratio of about 16 to 1, and under the tutelage of some of the finest winemakers in the growing Washington wine industry, the program also produces its own award-winning student-made wines, which are released twice a year. These have been recognized for their quality as well. The 2013 Seattle Wine Awards bestowed Double Gold for the both 2011 Northwest Wine Academy Mourvedre, and 2011 Northwest Wine Academy Late Harvest Viognier, among several other award winners.
The best way to experience the program, without enrolling, is by checking out the tasting room, featuring alumni wineries and current releases. It is open Thursday and Friday from 1:00 – 6:00 pm.
Between the two programs, 62 individuals finished programs and started a new life in 2012-2013, with 40 earning degrees, and 22 earning certificates. To learn more about the programs, how to enroll, or contribute, check out the South Seattle Community College site here.
Gifts from the Earth is sponsored by: Food Services of America, Boeing, Charlie’s Produce, Rebar and Associates, McGranahan Architects, The Gene Colin and Susan Janus Charitable Fund, Union Bank, Interbay Food Company, Southern Wine and Spirits, WSECU and Vigor.