Group raises money for trip

Shares diverse cheese, champagne with community


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Dance major Wendy Huang (left) grabs some cheese during Chocolate and Champagne event hosted by the culinary arts department in the Aqua Terra Grill on Oct. 8. The event is used to fund raise for students going to Italy.

By Dylan Collier, Advocate Staff

The culinary arts department hosted its sixth annual Chocolate and Champagne fundraiser in the new Aqua Terra Grill, from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 8, to help them raise money for their trip to Italy next June.

This gave students experience working in a restaurant environment and displayed their talent. Culinary arts assistant professor Elisabeth Schwarz said this was one of two scholarship fundraisers — one during the fall and one in spring — they will have for the trip, with Rome as one of their destinations.

Culinary arts student Virginia Trowbridge said if she gets the opportunity to go to Italy she would be interested in learning about the rich history that Italy has for growing olives and the process by which they turn those olives into olive oil in the Italian countryside.

“I enjoy savory food, and learning about olives intrigues me just as much as baking,” Trowbridge said. Culinary instructional assistant Angel Chau said that every year, the initial goal is to be able to take 10 students to Italy, and in order to make that happen they need to collectively raise between $6,000 to $7,000 per student, totaling $60,000, which covers all transportation, food and tuition costs.

This allows the Bay Area natives a chance to attend Italian culinary schools and learn from Italian instructors on their 17-day educational tour. The study abroad scholarship application requires that any student who goes on the trip must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 culinary units, have a valid passport by Feb. 29, 2017, have at least a 2.0 GPA and be a permanent resident of the United States, among other things.

“We narrow down which students get to go on the trip based on the points they earn through fundraising, leadership and participation,” Chau said.

This year the Chocolate and Champagne turnout was just over 100 guests, Chau said, and the culinary students dipped strawberries in chocolate, adding to the aesthetics, presentation and decadence of their food. Other sweet treats included at the venue were chocolate cream puffs, and mini chocolate cupcakes lightly sprinkled with slivered pistachios.

There were a few additions to the fundraiser this year including a chocolate fountain and students who demonstrated their ballroom dancing skills in the plaza, partaking in dances such as the waltz, the cha-cha, swing, bachata and merengue.

Former Contra Costa College culinary student Victor Nava, who now works at the Richmond Country Club as a culinary director, said it took him a half hour to prepare the sweet white chocolate fountain and put it on display next to the bar area. Many students used this time to fine-tune their culinary craft by crisping up their culinary knowledge.

Culinary student Cinthya Hernandez said, “I learned how it takes a lot of people to run a restaurant and how much teamwork is involved. I gained experience busing tables and multitasking, and I realized what it takes to run your own catering company.”

All the champagne and some food items were donated to the program for the event, including the cheeses, strawberries, pineapple and other fruits that the students used to make everything fresh and in-house.

There was a multitude of delectable delights and food for the palate like chicken mole, morsels of pork to dip into a sweet and sour sauce and a table, designed by Erica Marks who already graduated from the culinary arts baking program, of salami, prosciutto and homemade breads.

Marks also made the breads and baguettes and carefully placed all the flowers on all of the tables.

“It took the students about one week to prepare for this event, and they learned how many products it takes to contribute to a fundraiser like this,” Marks said.

Joe Quario, a former recipient of the Italy scholarship and graduate from the culinary arts program, said becoming a chef at CCC was the best thing he ever did because it positively changed his life and got him on the “right track.” He climbed his way up the ladder and now works as a sous chef at Agrodolce Osteria in Berkeley.