Priscilla Burns, Pleasant Valley High School’s Culinary Arts instructor, was in Chicago, Illinois this past weekend, attending the National Restaurant Association’s annual conference, and received high honors as the “2011 California Prostart Educator of the year,” according to Alycia Harshfield, of the California Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation.
“Priscilla’s dedication to the program and her students is paramount and exhibited by the tremendous success they’ve seen over the years,” says Mrs. Harshfield’s press release. She cites the financial independence of the the IHOST program at PV from CUSD dollars, their catering service, and their growing success and professionalism at contests throughout the state.
In addition to raising funds through grants and scholarships, Mrs. Burns has also worked hard at building a network of local businesses that support the program. She has taken students to Sysco Food Shows, and many of them have found their way into ROP positions. For instance, Tanner Hord has been taken in by 5th Street Steak House, Alyssa Barker is learning the ropes at Nash’s and Mim’s Bakery has taken Abbey Skillhorn under their wings, while Amber Herrod and Karli Dominguez will both be learning the ropes of Italian cuisine at Panighetti’s and Angelo’s Cucina Trinacria.
Mack Johnston will really learn to “speak food” at Red Tavern, and Maci Briggs will be spending quality time at Farm Star Pizza. Meanwhile, Left Coast Pizza will be teaching Michael Arney the art of jazzing up wings and things, and Arielle Danan will find herself standing in the shadow of Alice Waters at Leon Bistro, where she will learn the joys of Buying Fresh and Buying Local.
Also participating in the ROP program are The Gooney Bird, where Tiffany Robbins will take roost, Fast Eddie’s Sandwiches, who has taken on Chandler Pickering, and the Sicilian Cafe’s adoption of Casey Dunn. Even heavy hitting chains and grocers are taking part, thanks to Priscilla’s efforts. She sites India Star at the Holiday Inn for thier continued support, Safeway and Raley’s having taken on Dillon Oberman and Naomi Helton, respectively, and The Golden Waffle, Cocodines, Pluto’s, Grilla Bites, Pelican’s Roost, and the Cabana Cafe, who are also mentoring students (Natasha Gwathney, Sehyung Park, Alfred Wall, Will Dickinson, Dalton Whitworth, and Lindsey Hersch).
Kelly Carey has landed at the Upper Crust, Allysa Sherlock will be shaking things up at Scambles, and Sophia Villegas will be chilling at Coldstone Creamery. Melissa Goings will get an entirely different perspective with Opt for Fit Kids, where nutrition and health are the focus. Finally, Tyler Iacuessa will be wrapping up this term at the Pita Pit, where he will learn the fast paced face-to-face intensity of an open kitchen.
Having served as a mentor for students for 14 years, Priscilla is striving to continue to improve the program. She is working on having the classroom kitchens upgraded, and is already gearing up for next year’s many events. A CSU Chico graduate, Mrs. Burns studied Culinary Arts, Education, and Home Economics, and is proud of how the Hospitality Industry has grown to support students at all levels.
About her award, she says “Teachers work behind the scenes doing things that aren’t always recognized, so I’m very proud to be honored.” She also encourages the community to support the businesses who do so much to help her students, because, as the author overheard someone (I believe it was Gary Danko) saying at the Almost Famous Chef Competition, “today’s students are the the future of food.”