A helping hand

They’ve learned to wrangle yeast and make a fine meal of wild king salmon and crab-stuffed prawns.

Culinary program at Renton Tech

receives $25,000

They’ve learned to wrangle yeast and make a fine meal of wild king salmon and crab-stuffed prawns.

They are the women of the Renton Technical College culinary-arts program and they’re about to get some help paying for their education.

An international organization of women devoted to fine food, fine beverage and fine hospitality is finalizing a $25,000 endowment to the Renton Technical College Foundation.

From the earnings of the endowment will come scholarships of $1,500 for women enrolled in the culinary and baking programs. About 60 percent of the students enrolled in those programs are women.

In total, the baking program has eight students and the culinary arts program, 29 students.

“It’s terrific that we have a scholarship that targets them in particular,” Deborah Ranniger, the foundation director, said of the women in the programs.

Tuition and supplies for the 12-month professional baking program are about $4,500 and for the 18-month culinary-arts program about $8,500.

Once done with the program, students – women and men – are almost assured a job in their field. The program has a 100-percent placement rate, according to Doug Medbury, the culinary-

arts director.

For many students, according to Ranniger, the ultimate goal is “to strike out on their own and start their own business.”

That’s true for Alison Hansen, 22, of Renton, who will graduate from the one-year professional baking program in December.

She wants to open her own pastry shop in five to 10 years; right now she’s trying to get a job at a bakery.

And her interest in the culinary arts extends outside the classroom.

“I love the Food Network,” she said.

Another student in the baking program, Savannah Clifford, 19, of Renton, wants to bake professionally.

“It’s what I love to do the most,” she said.

She also would like to obtain a teaching certificate so that she can use her culinary skills in the classroom, especially with children.

When she started the program, she said she had never worked with yeast.

“I have learned a lot,” she said.

Each student has his or her own career goal, including owning a bakery or restaurant or going to work in a hospital or in commercial food service, Medbury said.

“Each has their own individual aspirations and goals,” said Medbury.

And many of the students face “life challenges” that come up during the course of their programs. Some are single parents.

A scholarship would help ease those challenges, Medbury said.

The $25,000 endowment is coming from the Seattle chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.

The organization is named after a famed French chef – Georges Auguste d’Escoffier – who is considered the father of 20th century cooking, according to Linda Augustine, the chapter’s scholarship chair.

The RTC endowment is the fourth for the organization. Two others go to Washington State University and one to Seattle Central Community College, according to Augustine.

The RTC endowment “was a great fit” for the organization’s endowment program, because it goes to a technical college, she said.

The organization also was impressed with the passion shown for the culinary program by the RTC staff members who made the presentation, she said.

The RTC culinary program is one of the few in the region and it has a busy catering program, including high-end dinners. It will help kick off the Farmers Market in downtown Renton on June 3.

Ranniger, the foundation director, said her organization is “thrilled” to receive the endowment. Les Dames d’Escoffier last awarded an endowment in 2002, so they aren’t presented often, she said.

Additionally, the RTC program also will receive a $1,000 scholarship to be awarded in the next school year.

The goal, according to Ranniger, is to increase the endowment through other fundraising efforts.

The culinary program also has another endowment that funds scholarships, she said. The largest of the foundation’s 16 endowments is about $140,000, she said.

The number of scholarships will vary from year to year, mostly depending on the interest earnings. Representatives of Les Dames d’Escoffier will interview prospective candidates, then pass its recommendations to the school for a final decision, she said.

And a “strong message” is sent that the women in the RTC program are important, Ranniger said, and there’s an organization committed to their success.

“It’s a huge statement,” she said. “It’s a confidence booster.”

Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at dean.radford@rentonreporter.com.