Two students living out dreams to be at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, returned to Fort Worth to check in with the culinary community that continues to support them.
“Being at CIA is amazing,” said Xavier Thompson, a 2015 graduate of North Side High School. “I have no regrets or doubts about going there. When I was looking for colleges, it was either CIA, Stanford or Duke, and CIA was number one.”
“It’s beautiful. I walk along the Hudson River all the time,” said 2015 Trimble Tech graduate Camron Sanders. “Every morning, I get up to go for breakfast at The Egg (the student restaurant on campus). And I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, this campus is beautiful’.”
“It’s neat watching both of the students come back. They're about halfway,” said Russell Kirkpatrick, general manager at Reata Restaurant and co-founder of the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival and its nonprofit foundation that supports the young men.
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“One of the three goals for the festival was to give back,” said Kirkpatrick. “And our way of giving back through the hard work of putting on the festival was to create a scholarship fund for local culinary students looking to further their education.”
Sanders and Thompson got scholarships in 2015 and each hopes the support continues as they enter their second year at CIA.
Sanders will graduate in March 2017 with an Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS) in Culinary Arts degree. And while he still hopes to become a chef, that is no longer his only pursuit.
“I try to pursue the education of being of chef. It's good enough for some people, but for my personality it does not fit,” said Sanders. “It's something I will pursue but not keep going on with. I've been thinking about being a teacher and teaching restaurant management and hospitality.”
Thompson also believes his best work will come outside of a restaurant. Once he earns his AOS, he wants to return to CIA for a bachelor’s degree in culinary science and pursue work in research and development.
“Working for Welch's or Dole or Campbell's or a company like that that's gonna help me get into the food and beverage business, something that's gonna be very hands on, not just in the kitchen area, but behind the scenes with processing and how things are made and created,” explained Thompson. “I know that if I get into a field like that, then every day, I'm going to be affecting a family.”
“It’s been a blessing to help these kids out and watch them have that journey through culinary school,” said Kirkpatrick.
“I want them to know I'm very grateful that there’s actually people out there willing to take their time to help someone like me,” said Sanders.