Professionalism and networking unite sponsors

Restaurants, wineries continue supporting 8th annual 'Food and Wine' fundraiser

By Christian Urrutia, Photo Editor

With summer and the culinary arts department’s annual study abroad trip drawing near, the department looks to proceed from the upcoming Food and Wine Event fundraiser to finance its trip to Italy.

The eighth annual Food and Wine Event will take place Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Gymnasium. The event provides the majority of funding used by the culinary arts department to award select culinary arts students scholarships to study abroad. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Every year, new faces from the community are introduced to the culinary arts department at Contra Costa College through the Food and Wine Event, which piques curiosities as to what students in the department do and where the fundraiser’s proceeds go, culinary arts assistant professor Elizabeth Schwarz said.

“It all goes to the funding for study aboard scholarships,” she said. “We do our best to incur as little expense as possible, for students.”

Culinary arts department assistant Angel Chau said, “The last two years we raised $45,000 to $55,000, and this year we expect about the same.”

Chau said the sponsors take care of any preparation costs during the setup of the event. She said there are close to a dozen sponsors this year, including Chevron, City of San Pablo and Mechanics Bank, among others.

Culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said guests feel surprised upon arriving due to the sheer size of the event and of how many attendees show up.

Student professionalism and networking have been some of the highlights in previous years, Sharkes said, with venders notifying him of wanting to participate in the future.

“‘I’m with you next year’ is what a lot of venders say to me afterward, so the guests are not the only ones who enjoy it,” Sharkes said.

“(People) always ask when the next one is going to be or ask about other events,” Schwarz said.

“A lot of guests end up enjoying the spread of beverages and food, live music and entertainment, opportunities for live and silent auctions and the fun atmosphere, which anyone coming for the first time can enjoy.”

Sharkes said that at least 21 wineries and 25 restaurants and bakeries will be attending this year — some new and some that have been with the event since its start eight years ago.

Culinary arts major Maryum Simpkins said newcomers should expect a wide variety of culture and diversity in food and in people at the event.

“Just getting the interaction with venders is a fantastic experience,” Simpkins said, who is in her third semester with the program.

She also said the event provides opportunities for students to see the possibilities of potential jobs and work experience and how becoming an expert at your practice is vital.

This year Simpkins is overseeing the delegation of student participation after working with a winery as an assistant last year.

“It is an aspect of the business side we should learn (working with the venders) and it is also a niche for students who benefit from learning how to develop professionalism skills in the business world,” Simpkins said.

“We’re still working together as a team, even if we aren’t the ones who get chosen to go (study aboard in Italy).”