Annual Food and Wine event postponed


CIndy Pantoja / The Advocate

Aqua Terra Grill was set to host the annual Food and Wine event that has been postponed amid Coronavirus concerns.

By Daniel Hernandez, Social Media Editor

Amid the public concern over the COVID-19 in the Bay Area, in mid-March the culinary arts department postponed its 13th Annual Food and Wine scholarship fundraiser event.

A March 11 press release coming from interim Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Eugene Huff said all district gatherings of 50 or more people, especially those attended by older adults or immune-compromised individuals, would be canceled.

This ordinance went into effect immediately, lasting until April 30, forcing the culinary arts department to put the brakes on the fundraiser.

“We have a lot of things we need to rearrange, and we have to come up with a plan B,” fourth semester culinary arts student Penny Chuah said.

The event was scheduled for April 26, but postponement has placed organizing the fundraiser at a stall.

For the department, moving onto the next step in a timely matter is a struggle.

“There was just so much effort put into this project,” culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said. He hopes to reschedule the Food and Wine event for September, but whether the district or county public health officials will OK an event like it that month is iffy.

One immediate challenge in mid-March was getting in contact with patrons and vendors who were sponsoring the event. “We bring in about $15,000 through just our sponsors,” he said.

Reimbursements to supporters who already purchased tickets through Eventbrite is in the works. Prospective attendees who already purchased tickets will remain valid for the September gathering.

At every Food and Wine Event, student scholarships and winners for the department’s summer trip to study abroad in Italy are announced. “We cannot travel abroad,” Sharkes said. “We don’t really have enough (money).”

Now, without enough fundraising opportunities, the much anticipated trip been canceled too.

Attendees and vendors typically come from all over the Bay Area.

Over 40 restaurants and wineries were expected to have booths at the event, presenting their culinary style through food samples and beverages.

Other activities would have included silent and live auctions, a cake raffle and live music.

Culinary arts professor Elisabeth Schwarz has been encouraging and reminding her students to maintain a rigid hygiene routine when in a kitchen, especially during a period of intensified stigma eating out in public spaces or picking up food to go.

Chuah said, “No one expected this to happen, but now it’s time to think more about how to maintain hygiene.”

This would have been her second time working at the Food and Wine Event.

“We have to think positive, because if you’re feeling negative, nothing will move in a good direction. I’m not too sad,” she said.

The culinary arts department remains optimistic — through the frustration — that they still hope to host the fundraiser in September.

“I’m certainly disappointed that we have this horrible spread of the virus here in this country and around the world,” Schwarz said. “In the meantime, we just need to do whatever keeps us healthy.”