Press release: Restaurant Week meals help GRCC students



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications



Aug. 1, 2013 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meals served during past Restaurant Weeks have dished out promising futures to students of Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

This year’s event, with more than 60 restaurants participating, runs Aug. 14 to 24. During those 11 days, $1 from every Restaurant Week meal is donated to a SICE scholarship fund. Last year, those donations added up to $18,014, which helped four SICE students — Antonio Arizola, Karri Cagney, Brian Oosterheert and Annie Silasa — achieve their culinary dreams.

GRCC’s world-class Secchia Institute has more than 25 years of experience, offering degrees and certificates in Culinary Arts, Culinary Management, and Baking and Pastry Arts.

Ms. Cagney, who recently graduated from SICE, plans to turn her culinary skills into a career in corporate research and product development. Her scholarship award allowed her to participate with GRCC’s team in the World Culinary Grand Prix, held in March in Glasgow, Scotland.

“I was proud to represent my school on an international stage that saw me compete against professional chefs from England, Ireland, Scotland and Whales,” she said. “I returned home with an energized love for food and the industry — and two individual bronze medals.”

Ms. Cagney, who came to Grand Rapids four years ago from Australia, said she loved SICE’s small class sizes and the chance to work with some of the most educated and experienced chefs in America.

“During my time at SICE, not only did I develop a strong culinary core of basic fundamentals and knowledge, but I was able to work in a diverse environment that allowed me to explore foods from around the world,” she said. “I experienced cuisine and cultures from places like Tunisia and Japan, and was taught by the greats like Escoffier and Hervé. This, all without leaving Grand Rapids.”

Mr. Oosterheert is spending his summer working at Erna’s Elderberry house, a 5-Diamond Relais Chateau restaurant in Oakhurst Calif., before finishing work on his GRCC culinary arts degree.

“Not only are the chefs in the (SICE) program some of the most amazing and encouraging people I have ever met, but I wouldn’t be where I am today, nor would I have the passion that I have for food, if it weren’t for them,” he said. “In particular, Chef Dunn and Chef Schultz have been great catalysts for the goals I have set for myself and have raised the bar for the type of person I want myself to be.”

“GRCC and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education are grateful to Experience Grand Rapids for making their goal of training the next generation of chefs and food professionals such an integral part of Restaurant Week,” said Dan Gendler, SICE’s program director. “The event truly showcases the depth and variety of West Michigan’s farm-to-table movement — and adds to our crop of ‘locally grown chefs.’”

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.