Taste of Mesa brings flavor to campus

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Professor Michael Fitzgerald    conducting the cake auction.

Professor Michael Fitzgerald conducting the cake auction.

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera

Professor Michael Fitzgerald conducting the cake auction.

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera, Staff Writer

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Mesa College’s Culinary Program hosted the foodie event of the year as they served up tasty eats in exchange for funding of its program and on campus restaurant, Culinary Outlook.

On April 6 San Diego Mesa College’s Culinary Arts program hosted “Taste of Mesa”, a fundraising event where students, faculty, and community members paid a cover fee for access into a cook-off of between Mesa students, alumni, and local celebrity chefs. The event also provided opportunities for guests to win prizes and bid on silent auction items.  

During the event, Mesa students and alumni were given one hour to compete in a cook-off. Students and alumni competed for prizes in separate categories. Members who participated in the poultry category of the competition were judged according to the taste of their dish and it’s overall appearance. Members who participated in the baking category were only judged by the overall appearance of their finished cake. The chefs whose cake or dish received the most votes were awarded prizes.  

Along with the cooking competition the event featured a showcase in which local professional chefs held information sessions while preparing a dish. One of the chefs present at the event was Kevin Templeton, Executive Chef at Barleymash located in Downtown San Diego. Templeton held a showcase where he talked about the importance of quality food and resources, while preparing a fish dish for members of the audience to enjoy.

When asked about the significance of the event, Templeton stated, “This whole idea, the competition between alumni and newer students is fantastic. It’s a great way to just experience. You know the alumni get to come back and show what they experience and the new ones kind of get a feel of it.”

Templeton, who has been a professional cook for over 20 years took the opportunity to provide advice for student chefs. Templeton said, “This has to be a passion. If you’re doing it for the money, if you’re doing it for the fame it’s not going to work. This has to be a true passion, your love for food and love for making people happy. If you do that, you’re going to be disappointed in the real world…make sure this is something you love and you’ll be just fine.”

Another professional chef who held a showcase at the event was Maeve Rochford, founder of Sugar and Scribe Bakery. According to the Sugar and Scribe website, Rochford was Food Network’s 2015 Holiday Baking Championship winner. During the event, Rochford’s showcase discussed the different aspects of creating and decorating a cake.

Throughout the food-filled fundraising event, guests were able to relax in a patio-seated area lined with tables that were preparing fresh and hot food items. The small dishes offered to guest consisted of sushi, carnitas with homemade tortillas, and paella. Students enrolled in the culinary program operated the different food stations.

Culinary arts student Christian Amezcua expressed how the event was a learning experience. Amezcua said, “It’s like a catering event, so what it takes to set up all this is a lot of work.”

Kevin Lua, a culinary arts student, joined Amecua. Lua explained that he had worked in a fast pace setting before so that kept the event from seeming overwhelming. Lua stated, “This was a learning experience. Just interacting with the people, answering their questions, cooking and everything. Just a really good atmosphere all around and just doing what I love.” Both Amezcua and Lua assured that if given the opportunity they would both volunteer to participate in an event similar to this again.

As the event came to an end, cakes prepared for the competition were sold to attendees in a live auction. The cakes’ price ranged from $30-$60. According to the San Diego Mesa College’s Facebook page, the event raised around $10,000. According to the Taste of  Mesa event webpage, proceeds from the event “will be used to purchase ingredients and supplies” and help students develop their skills.

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Taste of Mesa brings flavor to campus