Culinary studies italian palate

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Six culinary arts students’ hard work paid off when they received scholarships and studied abroad in Italy for 17 days in June.

Among the recipients were Contra Costa College culinary arts majors Lauren Patrick, Topaz Sanders, Maryum Simpkins, Danielle Robinson, Fatimah Hanif and Patchell Windom.

The scholarship covered nearly $7,000 in expenses per student, culinary arts instructional assistant Wing Man Chau said.

Culinary arts Chairperson Nader Sharkes said this year’s trip was unique because it gave an opportunity to six women in minority groups to get a glimpse of a different lifestyle.

Robinson said, “I’ve gained a new fire for this field of study.” She said it was a new and unexpected experience that made her realize how different things were back home.

And as for Simpkins, it was not the “fancy stuff” that impressed her, but instead the warmness, love, inviting environment and the gratifying European lifestyle. She said, upon returning to CCC, she wants to apply the mannerisms she experienced while visiting Italy.

Although recipients were selected by a committee who reviewed their scholarship application, there were students that did not take part of the trip due to not meeting the requirements.

Sharkes said the culinary arts department is looking for ways to bring more students on the next trip.

Robinson said throughout the year they put on a series of annual fundraising events to raise funds for their trip.

Many of the events that helped raise funds came from on-campus events throughout the year, such as the Annual Food and Wine Event and Valentine’s Day Dinner, Sharkes said.

The recipients had the chance to experience a different lifestyle for two weeks as they studied at two culinary institutes and toured different cities in Italy.

The Instituto Superiors Statal in the city of Vico Equense, was one of the culinary arts schools the students visited. The second one was Instituto Professionale Statal in Otranto, Italy.

Each day presented students with a new cooking lesson as they watched professional chefs cooking in front of them.

Simpkins said Italians have a healthier diet than Americans, and children are often educated on which plants are harmful and learn how to plant and grow their own food.

Robinson said being used to the big flavors from home allowed her to notice how different yet simplistic the ingredients used in Italy.

“It was very peaceful. I feel like I have changed mentally and spiritually. I realized this (major) is something I really wanted,” Robinson said.

It was her first time applying for a scholarship, and she said it was worth the time. She said she encourages more students to apply for the scholarship.

Walking through Italy, the students were able to visit many tourist spots and even had the chance to experience what it is like to cook on a boat.

The students were able to visit such  cities as Brindisi, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Town of Capri and Sorrento during their tour of Italy.

Sharkes said they were able to see the remains of the city of Pompei.

Simpkins said she found inspiration to continue cooking, and even though she is baking now she knows she still has a lot to learn.

They had the chance to visit different attractions such as a buffalo farm where they make mozzarella cheese and different wineries.

Robinson said she was surprised of how pampered the bulls were at the mozzarella farms. “The bulls had their own massage tables.”