Basha High students in culinary education fundraiser - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Basha High students in culinary education fundraiser

November 1st, 2017 development
Basha High students in culinary education fundraiser

By David M. Brown



What’s for dinner tomorrow?

Sit down at the table and ask the chef mentors and future chefs at the Careers through Culinary Arts Program.

The New York City-based nonprofit has been transforming the lives of at-risk students for 26 years by preparing them for college and careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, C-CAP AZ, the local affiliate, served 4,300 students attending 50 schools, including in the East Valley. And, last spring, more than $435,000 in scholarships were awarded to students from a variety of school districts throughout Arizona.

Recently, East Valley students were among 14 young people who participated in the first AZ Summer Job Training Program, which met once a week for 10 weeks in Phoenix at the C-CAP Training Kitchen, sponsored by Nine Degrees North Catering and Sysco Arizona.

On Nov. 5, Mesa and Basha high schools will send student teams to participate in the fourth Harvest Moon Feast, C-CAP AZ’s annual and scholarship fund-raiser.

During the inaugural summer program, students received intensive technical and soft skills training and participated in an international-inspired cooking competition sponsored by the Pork Council of Arizona, explained Jill Smith, director of C-CAP AZ.

Executive Chef Andrew Helmandollar of Casino Arizona mentored, and “each student also received a knife kit, cookbooks, uniforms and other culinary-related materials throughout the summer,” Smith said.

This academic year, high school seniors and juniors are again working toward “C-CAP Recommended” certification, and graduating high school seniors can participate in the 2018 summer program.

East Valley high schools involved with C-CAP are East Valley Institute of Technology and Mesa High in Mesa; Highland and Perry in Gilbert; and Chandler, Hamilton and Basha high schools in Chandler.

“C-CAP gives our students techniques that will benefit them in the culinary world, such as team work and employability, organizational skills and communication skills,” said Priscilla Yazzie, a culinary teacher at Mesa High.

Smith said the job training program “provides intensive training in kitchen skills including knife cuts, food and equipment identification, safety and sanitation, as well as soft skills such as communication, time management and problem-solving.”

“Training is followed by a paid internship in a professional kitchen, where students gain critical job skills and experiences. The program serves many of our high school students looking for their first job,” Smith added.

Lee Hillson, executive sous chef for the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, will emcee the Harvest Moon event at Unexpected Art Gallery in Phoenix.

“I value the enrichment of future culinarians and am proud to donate my time to an organization that has given thousands of deserving students scholarships for further culinary education,” Hillson said.

The event will feature approximately 25 high school C-CAP culinary programs and their chef mentors, offering prepared dishes at 30 stations. Five tables will feature C-CAP alumni chefs such as Marcos Seville, Omni Scottsdale at Montelucia in Scottsdale, and Chef Port, who has just opened Fitzgerald’s BBQ, a Phoenix-based food truck and caterer.

Wesley Cervantes will be one of the students representing Mesa High.

“He wants to be a chef and he believes the C-CAP program will make this possible for him,” Yazzie said.

The two dishes her students will prepare are the French omelet and cucumber salad. At school, they practice recipes again and again.

“Sometimes they practice so much that they’d rather not eat any eggs for a while,” Yazzie said.

Wesley said Yazzie “believes in my potential and my future career.”

“When I cook, it makes me happy, and when I see people eating my food, it makes me happy also. This is what makes me want to become a chef,” said Wesley, who wants to own a restaurant and host a television show.

Cara Summerfield, who teaches culinary arts at Basha High School in Chandler, will take as many as five juniors and seniors to the party. Her team will include seniors Tyler Alexander, Savanah Duran and Isaac Elzer and juniors Alle Morfin, Kayla Cooley and Aria Roberts.

Most of her participating students plan to attend college for culinary arts or hospitality.

“They utilize C-CAP in making connections to gain employment throughout high school and college and to gain or hone skills that they may not get a chance to practice at school,” said Summerfield, who is in her third year directing the program at Basha.

The students are expected to practice dishes in class and at home. In the early stages, they make a classic French omelet and a tomato cucumber salad.

“Both require a variety of technical skills that every good chef should know, including knife skills, seasoning, timing, waste versus edible portion and presentation,” Summerfield said.

Her students also are encouraged to attend local practices sponsored by C-CAP, where they can receive professional feedback before the event, she said.

Last year for the Harvest Moon, Basha High was paired with Chandler resident Dushyant Singh, executive chef at The Camby in Phoenix.

By the school’s request, he is working with Basha High again this year.

“Chef Singh represents the intensity and patience needed to be a strong leader in a kitchen and is a good example to the students,” Summerfield said.

Smith said that besides raising money for aspiring chefs’ further education, the Harvest Moon Feast “is a can’t-miss opportunity for C-CAP students to work alongside some of Phoenix’s most talented hands.”

Chef Hellmandollar, in his second year with the program and a mentor for the event at Mesa High, said the Harvest Moon Feats “teaches young aspiring chefs so many different elements of the business. Not only that, but it is so exciting to be around so many people.”

Information: or call Jill Smith, 623.606.6213.