Students To Host International Meal For The Public

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Student chefs of the Longhorn Culinary Arts Restaurant invite the community to sample food from around the globe and help them raise money for their classroom kitchen conversion from home to commercial.

The table will be set on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The aromas wafting from the cafeteria at Rim Country Middle School will come from Europe, around the United States, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

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Award-winning student-chef Norma Palestino is one of the featured culinary artists at the Longhorn Cultural Chef Event, to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Rim Country Middle School Cafeteria on Thursday. Tickets may be purchased at the door, from a culinary arts student or by calling (928) 472-5750.

"It is the culminating activity for the class," said instructor Devon Wells. "The students get to show what they have learned."

Tickets for the event are $15 for adults and $8 for children, which, Wells said, is more than other school fund-raising dinners but diners at this meal will get full, sampling a variety of cuisines from teens who chose recipes to please discerning palates.

Indeed, three of the chefs and one of the helpers are already award-winning cooks.

Shawn Hamilton, Norma Palestino and Nina Hollingsworth won a team bonze medal in a recent Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chef competition.

"We were given 30 minutes to break down and plan our cooking steps, then set up our station to prepare a salad, main course and dessert," Palestino said. "Then, we had an hour to prepare the food."

The biggest challenge, Hamilton said, was that the team had never seen the recipes before.

"One was for a crepe from scratch," he said. "None of us had ever done that before, but it did not stop us."

Hollingsworth said it was tough being watched, but she learned "if you have confidence and a desire, you can go far."

Hamilton and Palestino also won $1,000 scholarships in a recent Careers through Culinary Arts (C-CAP) competition.

"C-CAP was all about speed," said Palestino. She made a fruit pastry tart and chicken sauciere in the final round.

Payson High School freshman Justin Richardson has focused on cooking all of his life, and he entered Johnson and Wales University Chef College of Culinary Arts competition for high school students this spring.

Richardson's roasted rack of lamb, white sweet potato frittatas, sautéed spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins and a red wine fig reduction sauce, won him the grand prize.

Richardson plans to use his $5,000 renewable scholarship at Johnson and Wales University in Colorado when he graduates from high school in 2010.

Hamilton is currently working at Gerardo's Italian Bistro. He sees himself working in the hospitality industry in Payson in five years.

Hollingsworth dreams of opening her own pastry business.

Palestino's future plans include an apprenticeship, though she does not know where. In five years she would like to be a souse chef in a resort or health club. Currently, she works at the Rim Club.

At 15, Richardson is not old enough to take the cooking class at Payson High School. But he does not let that stop him from the "calming" activity of cooking, either at home or at work at Gerardo's.

"I love taking a white plate --it's like my canvas, if I were a painter -- and creating something beautiful and delicious to put on it, then watching people smile when they eat it," he said.

Local chef Gerardo Moceri worked closely with the four award-winners and he and the chefs at The Rim Golf Club have been great supporters and teachers for all the students, Wells said.

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