- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To call Wesley Ogilvie a culinary scholar would be a bit off the mark these days. The winner of a recent $10,000 award from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington Education (RAMW) Foundation has worked as a host and curbside-to-go employee at an Applebee’s restaurant and is spending the rest of the summer training with the Marine Reserves at Parris Island, S.C.

However, the 17-year-old graduate of Chantilly High School - winner of its Student of the Year award - expects to pursue his career as a chef or sous-chef at the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., beginning in December. The Marine Corps may help subsidize his years there, too. He credits a high school career fair and a culinary arts instructor at his school with spurring him on.

Chantilly’s program in culinary arts and dining-room management is one of similar public school programs in the area that the restaurant association foundation has helped establish in the past five years. During that time, the nonprofit has given away about $100,000 in scholarship money, with another $10,000 this year going to a second high school graduate - Tracy Davenport, 18, of Annandale, who also plans to attend the culinary institute beginning in December.

At the moment, Mr. Davenport works in a retail store to earn extra money, although, he says only slightly tongue-in-cheek, he would prefer working under “a chef that would help me and not yell at me.”

A third scholarship - a $5,000 Merit Scholarship from the law firm of O’Brien & van Stiphout - also was awarded June 29 at the Rammys - RAMW’s annual fundraising gala - to the District’s Danetta Luan Johnson, a graduate of Ballou High School, who plans to attend the Art Institute of Washington.

Some past scholarship winners have done spectacularly well. One was first in her class at the culinary institute, earning an associate degree in pastry and baking. Another, who hopes to be a food writer, has interned at the Waterford Hotel in Bermuda and at Kinkaid’s restaurant here. Sixty percent of the awardees have been young women.

Then there is Tristan Data, 20, on a scholarship at Stratford College in Falls Church, who says, “I don’t have a dime or dollar,” but he hopes one day to have his own business in cake decoration. He is applying at a Whole Foods store to work in its pastry section.

RAMW recognizes the need to cultivate a skilled work force by encouraging young people to enter the field early and stay in it. That’s “an especially crucial matter now,” says RAMW President Lynne Breaux.

The foundation’s former director, Frans Hagen, a retired chef and a food and beverage manager, says experience of every kind counts. He praises “a lot of fantastic school systems in our area that have excellent career technical education. … The tourism and hospitality industry are the economic engine of this city, but so little attention is paid by the District administration to develop the work force to support that industry.”

Proof of what may be better times ahead is the official opening in January of what Mr. Hagen calls “the first career cluster facility in the whole area”: Washington’s Roosevelt High School’s $l.7 million Academy for Hospitality & Culinary Arts, which offers instruction in its lodging, culinary arts, baking-pastry and dining-room management sectors. It’s equipped with a commercial kitchen and bakery, a 100-seat cafeteria, and a hotel and conference room. The foundation helped in the consultation and procurement processes. Fifteen high school students attend a culinary arts summer camp on the premises while being paid by the D.C. Department of Employment Services’ Summer Youth Program.

“I am a firm believer that it’s important for any industry to be involved in the local community,” Mr. Hagen says.

The RAMW foundation encourages students to enter competitions sponsored by numerous other nonprofit groups that help fuel their ambition. “We want to give young people a sense of direction,” Mr. Hagen says. “A lot of people don’t have the desire to go on to college. The best way out of this cycle is to find a career.”

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