Payson Graduate Gets $8,000 Cooking Scholarship

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While many graduating high school students are grappling with career choices, a cooking competition earlier this year gave one Payson High School student a career direction he didn't have before.

The decision of a career path is not as easy as it was for people 10 or 20 years ago, given the variety of career paths to choose from now.

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Robert Foster won an $8,000 cooking scholarship from Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson.

Not surprisingly an $8,000 cooking scholarship from Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson makes the decision a whole lot easier for 18-year-old PHS senior Robert Foster.

He has already decided what he will do after graduation.

Cook.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do after I graduated until recently really," said Foster.

He said that he had not chosen a career path until he found he had a knack for cooking while working at the Rim Club from January 2007 to January of this year.

"What clinched it for me was getting a scholarship," he said.

In April, Foster won a cooking competition at Canyon Ranch that dropped an $8,000 scholarship in his lap.

Canyon Ranch is located in Tucson, as is the school Foster will attend, Pima Community College.

Foster said he considered other culinary institutes, like the one in Scottsdale, but he said he felt he would get a better education through Canyon Ranch and Pima Community College.

"I think some of the culinary institutes are overrated and don't really offer a hands-on work-related education experience," he said.

And since Canyon Ranch will also employ Foster while he attends school, he said he felt the more rounded education would give him the work experience he will need to find a job after school.

Canyon Ranch is also providing Robert with a $100 monthly gas allowance.

He said his final choice wasn't easy, mostly because he hadn't definitively made up his mind until he got the scholarship.

He said he considered many fields, but ultimately landed on cooking.

Foster currently works at Mazatzal Casino where he prepares everything from sauces to main dishes like prime rib, fish, shrimp scampi and other specialty dishes.

"I cook pretty much everything there, lots of pasta dishes like fettuccini alfredo and sauces," he said.

For the cooking competition that won him the scholarship, Foster said he prepared a chicken dish with a reduced chicken broth glaze and a dinner salad.

Judges must have been impressed with his abilities, because shortly after the competition he was notified he got the scholarship.

He said his parents, Andy and Tammy, are proud of his accomplishments and support his decision.

Foster will relocate to Tucson some time in August, at which time he said his brother, Justin, 20, may go with him.

Tammy said they are glad Justin might go down with him.

"As a mother I have the typical worries, but the way we look at it is they can keep an eye on each other, and stay out of trouble," she said.

Robert said he would like to someday train in Europe or Asia.

Tammy said that she was not really surprised when Robert got the scholarship.

"I wasn't counting on it, but I kind of expected he might get it," she said.

Robert does some of the cooking at the house, but Tammy said because of the full plate (no pun intended) her son has had in the past couple of months preparing for graduation and moving to Tucson, he hasn't had much time lately to do any cooking.

Robert attended Payson High School for his entire high school career.

He moved to Phoenix with his parents in 1990 when he was 5 months old.

In 1993, the Fosters moved to Strawberry and then to Payson a couple of years later.

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