Students Throw Fund-Raiser To Better Phs Program

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The chefs of Payson High School are hosting their first annual International Culinary Chef Event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 in the Rim Country Middle School Cafeteria.

Through their work in the kitchen, students will offer guests the chance to taste dishes from the Caribbean, Italy and Mexico.

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Rachelle Wood and Bonnie Clayton are two of the Longhorn Culinary Restaurant Chefs who will cook for the International Culinary Chef Event.

"I'll be making Mexican tortilla cups with marinated chicken," said Bonnie Clayton. The class made a similar dish for a food show in Phoenix and it turned out so well they decided it should be one of the dishes at the Payson event.

The menu will also include sweet potato tarts and barbeque ribs, and all of it can be washed down with a drink from the fruit smoothie bar.

Rotary foreign exchange student, Augusto Ludvik Filip Marino from Barretos of Sao Paolo, Brazil will be making a dessert from his homeland.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children 10 years and under.

Proceeds go toward upgrading one of the culinary arts program's home-style kitchen stations into a commercial station.

The seven home-style kitchen stations were built 10 years ago.

A commercial kitchen could possibly include a 20-quart mixer and a six- to eight-burner stove, said Family and Consumer Science teacher Devon Wells. "Those are the two big ticket items. As time goes on there will probably be a baker's table and we might have to do some resurfacing of the floor, tear out some cabinets and either get a stainless steel table or stainless steel counter tops."

Even if students are not studying culinary arts as a career, almost all of them will work in the culinary arts somehow, according to Gerardo Moceri, owner of Cucina Paradiso.

Moceri has been actively helping the student chefs for the past several years -- donating food to the program, teaching specialized cooking classes using Cucina's wood fire oven and donating black chef's coats to each student in the program.

Donating his time to the students is important to Moceri. He said it is his way of giving back to a community he loves, where he is raising his children.

When Moceri first began his career as a chef, he turned down his mother's offer to take out a second mortgage on the house and put him through the American Culinary Institute.

Instead, he arrived with his suitcase in Italy and was given a chance by master chef Angelo Paracucchi. Since someone took the time to teach him the trade, Moceri see it as his duty to pass the knowledge on. But he doesn't take all the credit.

"I might have helped the students a little bit," Moceri said, "but it is their teacher, Devon, who has spent extra time helping students prepare for scholarship competitions and gives many extra hours putting together fund-raisers like the Chef Event.

"Having a commercial kitchen (at the school) to learn in helps (students) wherever they might work as they go through college, from a diner to a five-star restaurant."

The estimated cost of the upgrade is $30,000. Raising the money will not happen overnight, Wells said.

Tickets for the first annual culinary event can be purchased from Wells, the student chefs, at the high school office, at the door or at Cucina Paradiso.

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