Foxwoods food festival funds culinary college scholarships.

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Johnson & Wales culinary students work with celebrity chefs

By Gale Courey Toensing -- Today staff

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - Students from one of the country's best culinary schools will have the opportunity to gain experience with some of the country's best-known celebrity chefs while raising scholarship funds for their school.

For the third consecutive year, students from Johnson & Wales University's College of Culinary Arts will participate in the Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival, taking place Sept. 26 - 28 at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

A portion of the weekend's proceeds will be donated to scholarship funds at the College of Culinary Arts. Last year, the Foxwoods event provided $25,000 to the university program.

More than 100 Johnson & Wales student volunteers will work alongside dozens of guest celebrity chefs, and experts in food, wine and spirits, catering to more than 6,000 festival-goers.

''We're honored to be partnering with Foxwoods again,'' Kevin Duffy, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales, told Indian Country Today. ''It's very exciting for our students. It's an exceptional learning experience for them. Foxwoods gives us a great opportunity to send our students to work with some of the best chefs in the country - and also have fun.''

The students will act as greeters to the festival guests, but will also participate in hands-on activities.

''They do just about anything they're asked to do. They go down there with an open mind and I leave it up to the folks at Foxwoods to decide what they need the students to do,'' he said. ''Some work directly with the celebrity chefs preparing items. Some go to the main kitchen to prepare part of the main meal. Some of them are actually wait staff passing the hors d'oeuvres around - whatever the needs are, the students are prepared to do it.''

The university is close enough to Foxwoods that some of the students will travel back and forth each day, but some stay at the hotel depending on how much work there is. The students sometimes work 12 to 14 hours and Foxwoods provides some rooms for them.

The Food & Wine Festival dovetails nicely with the culinary school's special functions club, Duffy said.

The culinary degree program at Johnson & Wales is one of the largest in the country and offers bachelor's degrees in baking and pastry arts; culinary arts and food service management; culinary nutrition; food marketing; food service entrepreneurship; and pastry arts and food service management.

Johnson & Wales is a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1914. The university focuses on career education, offering accredited degrees in business, hospitality, culinary arts, technology and education. The student body is diverse, with students from all 50 states and 89 countries.

The university has campuses in Providence, R.I.; North Miami, Fla.; Denver, Colo.; and Charlotte, N.C.

The Rhode Island campus has around 10,000 students with about 2,500 students enrolled in the College of Culinary Arts, Duffy said. A number of Native students are enrolled.

In addition to adding their expertise to the celebrity chefs' work at the festival, students will also have an opportunity to attend festival events such as cooking demonstrations and book signings.

Sarah Buchanan, a senior at Johnson & Wales and a native of Burrillville, R.I., volunteered at last year's festival and will return again this year, according to a Foxwoods media release.

''Volunteering at last year's Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival was a great experience and I am eager to participate again this year. We learn how to plan and execute events like these in class each day and the Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival gives us the opportunity to put what we have learned in class to use in the real world,'' she said in the release.

The third annual Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival will feature more than 50 experts, including David Burke, Tom Colicchio, Guy Fieri, Ingrid Hoffmann, Masaharu Morimoto, Jacques Pepin, Michael Schlow, Ray Isle, Joe Bastianich and Divas Uncorked.

This year's festival will feature some of Johnson & Wales' own alumni - Tony DeRienzo, of the Waterfront Grille in Massachusetts; Jules Ramos, of the Eleven Forty Nine Restaurant in Rhode Island; and George Aronstein and Scott Philbin, of the Stoneforge Restaurants in Massachusetts, are included in the lineup of guest chefs.

The three-day event will includes a grand tasting, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, book signings, wine and spirits seminars, lavish dinners, charity poker tournament, Sunday brunch and more.

For more details, visit www.foxwoodsfoodandwine.com.