It’s on: Turlock teen chefs from rival schools do battle for a good cause

05/24/2014 4:50 PM

05/24/2014 4:51 PM

Iron Chef teams from crosstown rivals Pitman and Turlock High culinary programs chopped, seared and sweated it out, winning scholarships and raising more than $13,000 for Turlock schools.

The high-energy fundraiser was a first-run for the Turlock Education Foundation, which organized the night to showcase student talent and pay for classroom grants next school year, said foundation spokesman Barney Gordon.

“The event was fabulous,” Gordon said. “We had about 200 guests in attendance and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.”

The one-hour race to the taste-test finish pitted Principal Marie Peterson of THS against counterpart Rod Hollars of Pitman, as part of six-member teams at the main dining hall of California State University, Stanislaus.

Slicing and dicing for the Turlock Bulldogs were Peterson, teacher Bobby Sheets and students Rafael Herrera, Hunter Martinez, Emanuel Mojica and Hilary Vilegas. Sautéing and filleting for the Pitman Pride were Hollars and students Rachael Pennington, Miya Jacquez, Timmy Hernandez, Austin Williams and Adam Lusher.

Chicken, courtesy of Foster Farms, was the entree focus, with an appetizer and dessert rounding out the menu. Tasked with judging taste, originality and plating were Turlock Unified Superintendent Sonny Da Marto, Turlock Mayor John Lazar and chefs or owners from three local restaurants: Leroy Walker of Bistro 234, Mohini Singh of Mohini Indian Fusion and Guillermo Ramirez of Las Casuelas.

Not to run a-fowl of contributors, attendees dined on a chicken repast prepared by high school students under the direction of Chartwells Campus Services, which runs the facility.

At the end of the night, Turlock High took home the perpetual trophy from All Star Trophies and its young chefs will each receive a $300 scholarship. Pitman competitors will receive a $150 scholarship, and both schools will get $250 for their culinary programs, Gordon said.

Other highlights:

• The Pitman High Jazz Band combo entertained guests nibbling appetizers compliments of Bistro 234 and Las Casuelas, earning a donation to the PHS Band.
• Centerpieces provided by THS and PHS floral classes went to guests for a $25 donation to the schools’ floral departments.
• About 60 pieces of student art — photos, drawings, paintings and ceramics — brought in donations through a silent auction. Half the money raised goes to the contributing art programs.
• Pitman High videography and photography students captured the night. Students will produce a movie of the event and earn a donation to both programs for their assistance.

Turlock Educational Foundation cleared $13,000 from the night, Gordon said. This school year’s $11,000 in teacher grants came from a Superbowl tailgate party when Pitman graduate and then-rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the field for the 49ers.

The foundation also holds Festival on the Green to raise money for arts education and smaller fundraisers to repair and replace school musical instruments.

The Iron Chef night went so well, the nonprofit plans to make it the year’s signature event, Gordon said.

“The kids loved it and everyone I talked to was excited for next year’s competition,” he said. “We will work to keep the program exciting and new every year.”

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