Chef Elissa Oliver, director of the Culinary Arts program, received the School Program Champion of the Year award.
Students in Riverwood International Charter School’s Culinary Arts program provided a buffet for a recent event. (Riverwood International Charter School)
SANDY SPRINGS, GA — Riverwood International Charter School’s Culinary Arts program has 21 students cook a catered buffet for over 150 attendees at the Sandy Spring Education Force (SSEF) 2019 VIP Breakfast on Thursday, May 16.
As an added bonus, the students saw their leader, Chef Elissa Oliver, director of the Culinary Arts program, receive the SSEF School Program Champion of the Year award. The SSEF presented the award in recognition of Oliver’s dedication to providing Riverwood students with the culinary and life skills to be successful after graduation.
"Chef Oliver and her students always come in smiling and happy," Irene Schweiger, SSEF Executive Director, said. "She does something to inspire her kids; this is a jewel of a program."
The 9th -12th grade culinary arts students who volunteered for the assignment began their day at 5:45 am. They prepared a menu that included a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole, shrimp and grits, fresh bacon, orange and cream cheese danish, blueberry muffin tops, and yogurt. Fresh cut fruit was provided by Chick- fil-A Sandy Springs, a community partner that employs many Riverwood students. The task was complicated by the fact that the school year at Riverwood was concluding and the kitchen was packed up for the move to a new, larger facility in the soon-to-be-completed second phase of Riverwood’s new academic building. While this is not the first year the Riverwood students have catered the VIP Breakfast.
"Planning and mise en place (having all ingredients measured, cut, peeled, etc. before starting cooking) for this event was key," Oliver said. "We had to be super-organized ahead of time since it was the last week of school and we were moving."
Freshman Blake Marotte said the catering opportunity was "pretty hectic, but fun," adding that he enjoyed participating in this important community event. Sophomore Fernanda Guerrero offered that Oliver and the Culinary Arts program had helped her learn about successful time management, teamwork, and "how important it is to do things right."
The annual VIP Breakfast, held at Heritage Sandy Springs, drew volunteers, educators, and businesspeople from around the community.
Preparing and serving the meal were: Ana Bello, Dominick Bruce, Jason Camacho, Anaya Chennault, Huntly Connery, Silvia Diaz, Richard Figueroa, Jr., Alex Gama, Ayanna Gardner, Brooke Graffagnino, Fernanda Guerrero, Daniel Jackson, Madison Langton, Jacob Lorenzo, Alex Marcelino, Blake Marotte, Erick Ramirez, Mari Rodriguez, Sianne Simmons, Byron Vega, and Olivia Yanes.
The Riverwood Culinary Arts program is one of the school’s many career-based Pathways, and students who complete the program can graduate with industry-standard ServSafe certification. Many Culinary Arts students work in the kitchens of fine restaurants in Sandy Springs and beyond.
Oliver is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and worked in kitchens at the Cherokee Town Club and Viking Cooking School before taking over the culinary department at Riverwood in 2013.