Friday, May 10, 2013

Austin Food & Wine Alliance Hosts Culinary Arts Career Day on May 14

More than 500 culinary arts students from 14 area high schools will sharpen their knives and their job skills for the first-ever Culinary Arts Career Conference hosted by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance on Tuesday, May 14 at Palmer Events Center.

Dozens of local entrepreneurs, businesses, chefs, artisan producers, food writers and other culinary professionals will participate in the day-long conference that includes interactive competitions, prominent keynote speakers, panel discussions, a food truck lunch and a culinary expo ­ all offering the high school students a snapshot of the diversity of culinary careers open to them in Central Texas and offering insight into how to pursue those careers.

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary community through grants, educational programming and events, will welcome students from Pflugerville's Connally High School; Travis High School and The Clifton Center, Austin; Round Rock High School and Cedar Ridge High School, Round Rock; Del Valle High School; Taylor High School, Taylor; Thrall High School, Thrall; Navarro High School, Navarro; College Station High School, College Station; San Marcos High School, San Marcos; Lockhart High School, Lockhart; Northside High School, San Antonio; and Clemens High School, Schertz-Cibolo.

"As part of the education mission of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, we want to extend our reach to area high school students who are already passionate about a culinary career," said Mariam Parker, Alliance executive director. "Our goal is to provide an opportunity to learn about and gain inspiration from the diversity in career paths in the culinary world, as exemplified by Austin's culinary professionals."

Lending inspiration and guidance will be keynote speakers Clayton Christopher, founder and former CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea Company, which was sold to Nestle after Christopher started the company with $10,000 in savings and is one of the fastest growing beverage companies in the US with over $60 million in sales; Kari Underly, a third-generation butcher introduced to the trade by her father and now one of the nation¹s most prominent women butchers and an award-winning author; Chef Rene Ortiz, finalist for 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest, and executive chef at Sway and La Condesa; and Hoover Alexander, owner and chef of Hoover¹s Cooking restaurants and Hoover¹s Soular Food Trailer & Garden, renowned for his commitment to give back to the Austin community and support youth initiatives.

Culinary pros and entrepreneurs will offer six panels to provide valuable insight to the students on career choices. Topics include Taking Charge: Success Stories of Women in Food, Landing The Job: Do¹s & Don¹ts in the Professional World, Will Write for Food: The World of Food Media, Making Big Ideas Happen: Entrepreneurs Speak Out, Starting a Food Business: Artisans & Innovators and Grub on the Go: Exploring the Food Truck Business.

Because of strong support from Austin¹s food community, the Culinary Arts Career Conference is free to the students and school districts. The Alliance hosts events throughout the year with proceeds supporting educational initiatives and a culinary grant program.

"We're so thrilled by the amazing support we've received from the local community," said Linda Bebee Vice-President of Domestic Marketing for Texas Beef Council and Austin Food & Wine Alliance board member who is chairing the Culinary Arts Career Conference. "This is such an incredible opportunity for these students and we¹re excited to provide a day devoted to inspiring them and sharing the expertise of Austin¹s top culinary professionals."

In addition to the participation of individual members of the local food community, the conference has attracted sponsorship support from Whole Foods Market, Texas Beef Council, Greenling, FreshPoint, Giant Noise Marketing & Public Relations, Texas Tea, Max Photography, Field Branding + Design, Freeman Audio Visual, US Foods, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Austin, August Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Poached Jobs, KIND Snacks, Con' Olio Oils & Vinegars and Shweiki Media.
Additional exhibitors include Ace Restaurant Mart, , Austin Community College, Culinary Institute of America, CuvĂ©e Coffee, Les Dames d¹Escoffier Austin Chapter, Natural Epicurean Academy, New England Culinary Institute, Sysco, Quality Seafood, Salud de Paloma, Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Texas State Technical College Waco, The Food Lab at UT and Urban Roots.

Four of Austin's top food trucks including Mmmpanadas, Chi'Lantro BBQ, The Peached Tortilla and Whole Foods Market will be onsite to not only demonstrate their skills but also to support the event by providing lunch free to the students.

The Alliance has worked in tandem with culinary arts teachers to present the conference. They include Chef Mike Erickson of Connally High School, Pflugerville ISD; Chef Rob McDonald of Travis High School, Austin; Thelma Hall & Ram Vella, The Clifton Center, Austin ISD; Frank Perkins and Janice Reed, Round Rock High School, Round Rock ISD; Reid Johnson and Jenna Myers, Cedar Ridge High School, Round Rock ISD; Gail Calder and Chef Mark Bradley, Del Valle High School, Del Valle ISD; Candice Martin, Taylor High School, Taylor ISD; Beth Almquist, Thrall High School, Thrall ISD; Beth Gerhardt, Navarro High School, Navarro ISD; Catherine Parsi, College Station High School, College Station ISD; Denise Maupin, San Marcos High School, San Marcos ISD; Traci Brodbeck, Lockhart High School, Lockhart ISD; B.J. Salter, Northside High School, San Antonio ISD; and Amanda Tharpe, Clemens High School, Schertz-Cibolo UC ISD.

Student culinary competitions were sponsored by Hospitality Educators Association of Texas ­Central Chapter under the direction of Chef Mike Erickson, HEAT president, and Pflugerville Independent School
District Career & Technical Education.

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance annually hosts some of Austin's most celebrated food events including Live Fire! each spring as the kickoff event to the Austin Food & Wine Festival, the Wine & Swine Pig Roast each fall, and a series of Chef Wine and Dine dinners.

For more information about the AFWA, visit, call 512.348.6847 or email Stay up to date with Austin Food & Wine Alliance happenings on Facebook and Twitter

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