Seniors in Rancho Mirage High School’s Culinary Academy for Food Education (CAFÉ) enjoyed a special tour and gourmet lunch thanks to local philanthropist and CAFÉ supporter Patty Newman, who hosted the luncheon for the 16 students and three school staff members at the Springs Country Club last week.

“Two years ago, I was invited to CAFÉ for lunch, so I could see what the kids were doing,” said Newman, who through Newman’s Own Foundation donated $25,000 to the CAFÉ when it launched. “The kids served the meal, and they were learning about fine dining. We started talking about how it isn’t just about preparing the food but the presentation as well. I realized that none of the students had ever had a fine dining experience, and I decided to treat the seniors to a fine dining experience.

The first and second year Newman hosted the seniors at Wally’s Desert Turtle. This year she decided to change it up a bit and moved to a country club setting. Newman, and her husband Arthur, are residents of the Springs.

Along with their instructor Chef Howard Merrick, CAFÉ Counselor Rosie Vandenbook and Career Guidance Specialist Sue Emery, the students were greeted by Newman, Clubhouse Manager Robert Seymour and Executive Chef Justin Braviroff before being taken on a tour of the 48,000-square-foot clubhouse and kitchen. Prior to lunch being served, the chef offered students a little advice.

“If you learn anything, learn emulsification,” he said. “Know how to make a hollandaise sauce and dressings that doesn’t break. If you can do that, you will always be able to get a job.”

The students were served a kale Caesar salad followed by their choice of New York Steak of Skuna Bay Salmon and a choice of dessert of toffee pudding or New York cheesecake.

“I’m happy we get to connect with chefs (through the CAFÉ program),” said Abby Angle, who will be attending Johnson and Wales as a food service management major in the fall and plans to be a personal chef and then come back to the Coachella Valley and open her own business. “I really like the layout of the country club. It’s very open. You can do so much.”

“It was an eye opening experience,” said Destiny Torres, who is going to attend College of the Desert and then transfer to Johnson and Wales to pursue a baking career. “It’s great for us to get to experience different culinary facilities and see how they work.”

“This is a great place,” added Kristopher Porter, who hopes to be able to serve as a chef when he enters the Navy after high school. “It’s very different from a regular restaurant. You get to cook a lot more stuff!”