Four local chefs shared their talents and skills with Rancho Mirage and La Quinta High culinary academy students during a 3-hour cooking and plating demonstration culminating with the students dining with their guests at the Rancho Mirage High Culinary Arts Food Education Academy (CAFÉ) classroom/café.

Ritz Carlton Master French Chef Bruno Lopez, Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace Chef Felix Tipper, Kathy Ireland Worldwide Design Ambassador Chef Andre Carthe and Culinary Instructor and CAFÉ Partner Chef David Locke led CAFÉ students and seven guest culinary students from La Quinta High and their instructor Sheri Tucker through the preparation of a banquet meal including pork loin a butter pan sauce, starch red potatoes and mixed fresh vegetables. Students assisted in preparing the dishes while receiving instruction on proper food handling and temperature control, chopping and slicing and much more. The students learned how the chefs handle preparation and presentation for parties large and small and tips for putting their best foot forward when it comes to serving catering clients.

CAFÉ’s Chef Howard Merrick also spent some time with the student chefs explaining the function of various pots and pans and how to treat cookware in order to maximize efficiency and proper usage.

“This is a great experience,” said CAFÉ senior Abby Figueroa, who would like to own a restaurant and bakery in the future. “We learn so much here in CAFÉ.”

During their interaction with the chefs, students also received some soft skill tips relative to culinary careers in areas including communication, interviewing, industry trends and qualities of a good restaurant employee. Each chef demonstrated how they would present the meal items on the plate, and then each student chose one of the plates to model and receive critiques from the chefs on their plate.

The Rancho Mirage High-hosted experience was the second collaboration between CAFÉ and La Quinta High’s Culinary Arts Institute last week. Earlier in the week, seven CAFÉ students visited La Quinta High’s Blackhawk Kitchen for a 30-minute cupcake demonstration by Chef Dominque Valenzuela, executive pastry chef at the JW Marriott in Palm Desert. All students left the demonstration with their Halloween-themed cupcakes to make their holiday a little more special.

“For a first time, the collaboration effort with La Quinta in having students work with five chefs all with different communication styles went extremely well,” said Merrick.  “We should continue with these events in order to give more depth to our programs.”


450x550_joan-boiko-5-17Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications and Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She can be reached at or (760) 416-6010.