On June 12 approximately 80 of New York’s most vibrant personalities from across the fashion and culinary spectrum gathered at the inaugural event for Tomorrow’s Chefs, an organization created to support, nurture, inspire and advance the culinary arts by providing mentorship and scholarships to at risk high school students. More than $18,000 was raised to directly impact the lives of future culinary geniuses.
Honored at the event was celebrity pastry chef, Top Chef: Just Desserts host and James Beard Award winner Johnny Iuzzini. Among the attendees were Fox News personality Jamie Colby and some of New York’s fashion elite. Iuzzini, author of “Dessert FourPlay,” created delicious treats for the gathering, as well as a signature summer cocktail of lemonade vodka.
Members of the Tomorrow’s Chefs Board of Directors were also in attendance. The idea for Tomorrow’s Chefs stems from Michael Evan Blum, a culinary arts professional and current Sales and Marketing Director for Beemster Cheese, a historic cooperative making cheese in the Netherlands for more than 100 years. Blum was inspired to start Tomorrow’s Chefs after his cousin, Melissa Chesman, exposed him to the work
being accomplished by Urban Arts, a program that creates and funds arts programs for underserved urban schools.
“Our mission for Tomorrow’s Chefs is simple,” said Blum, “We will connect local high schools with their communities and culinary schools, fostering an increased awareness of the culinary arts and aiding in raising the graduation rate of our youth.”
With the focus of Tomorrow’s Chefs beginning at the local level, the program can create so-called “food communities,” in which schools, supermarkets and restaurants can work together to cultivate a future for the scholarship recipient.
In the end, the soiree was a success for a variety of factors. The recipient of the first Tomorrow’s Chefs scholarship is Jesse Wright, a student from Blum’s hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia. He dreams of becoming a chef and running his own kitchen, defying odds that many would consider insurmountable. Jesse, a product of foster homes since childhood, landed in the Children’s Home of Wheeling, where his skills and passion for cooking were soon realized.
In 2010, Jesse became a student at Wheeling Park High School and quickly became immersed in the culinary arts in any way possible. As part of the after school program, ProStart, Jesse tirelessly spent his time working and catering the events hosted by the ProStart class. Through the opportunity of Tomorrow’s Chefs, Jesse saw that he could continue his passion for cooking well into his future.
“I’ve had a lot of people in my life tell me that I couldn’t do it or wouldn’t make it [as a chef],” said Jesse. “I’ve been through a lot of placements and I can see why they would think I couldn’t do it, but I feel that I shouldn’t let them put me down, [or] get in my way.” The perseverance of this young man did not go unnoticed. With his scholarship to West Virginia Northern Community College, Jesse will have the chance to achieve his goals, despite his path to get there.
“Given the opportunity to pursue [cooking] as a career, I believe I will be able to become a successful person in life and look back on those bad experience[s] of my childhood and possibly help others that have had similar backgrounds,” Jesse said. “I want to overcome my past and not let it get to me. I want to prove people wrong about them saying I can’t do it.”