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Grilla Grills Offers Scholarship for Secchia Institute for Culinary Education

Grand Rapids, Michigan. December 2018.

Grilla Grills is proud to offer a $500 scholarship to an aspiring culinary student with our Grilla Grills Secchia Institute of Culinary Education Scholarship to assist them in furthering their culinary education.

We’d like to give a big congratulations to our scholarship recipient, Amanda! We received a lot of fantastic entries, and are excited for the opportunity to give back to the local community in this way. We have awarded her $500 to put toward furthering her culinary education at Gand Rapids Community College.
“We are thankful for the community support of our students through scholarships like this. Amanda Barnett is a prime example of a non-traditional student following a dream here at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. She is a deserved winner of this scholarship. Congrats to her and thanks to Grilla Grills!” – Werner Absenger, PhD, MS, Director of Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, Grand Rapids Community College.
Amanda was an absolute joy to meet and as we spoke, we learned a little more about her and her future plans.

“Thank you Grilla Grills for this scholarship! My dream is to run an after school cooking program for youth, so this scholarship helps not only me but all of the youth that will benefit from my learning too!” – Amanda Barnett

A little more about Amanda and her grilling experience!

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?

My career began in education. I was a K-8 ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher before moving on to culinary school. As a teacher, I created and ran many after school clubs for students, including GEMS (girls excelling in math and science), garden club, and cooking club . Cooking Club was such a success and so much fun that I decided to learn more about the culinary craft so that I could run an after-school program full-time. I still volunteer in the school garden where I taught, and I still spend a lot of time with former students and their families– we share recipes and cook food for each other. I share with them what I learn in school, and they share dishes with me from their native countries. Additionally, up until this school year began, I was vice president of the board for my neighborhood organization, Oakdale Neighbors. Due to having night classes, I had to step down from an official position for now, but I still remain involved by volunteering at community events and reading with children monthly at our neighborhood’s “little free library.” In addition to community events, I also play on a community soccer league called the Grand Rapids Champs League. It is designed to build community across the city– each neighborhood has its own team and home bar or restaurant, and you travel around the city each week to play a new team and meet new people. I have represented the south side team for four years now. I have met many friends from many backgrounds and who are involved in many cool projects across the city thanks to this league!

Describe the best grilled food you’ve ever eaten. Talk about the whole grilling/eating experience and why it was great. (You don’t have to be the cook!)

I love pushing the boundaries and helping people think of interesting ways to cook food and use common tools to create new dishes! Earlier this summer, I was thinking about all of the produce grown locally here in Michigan and how I could use more of it. Every summer, my friends love to host barbecues. The menus for the day are usually heavy on the meat side, but I really wanted to tie in more produce. One day, I seasoned up some asparagus and peaches. At first, my friends thought I was a weirdo for throwing peaches on the grill, but they ended up being the big star of the night! To prepare them, I cut them in half, soaked them in a citrus olive oil, and then grilled them face down. Once they had nice grill marks, I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar and served them with ice cream. Everyone went back for seconds, and grilled peaches became a staple at every barbecue I attended this summer. It was so fun to prepare something new for my friends and to see them get excited about it. The heat of the grill really pulled the sweetness out of the peaches– it was almost as if you were eating a mini peach pie (but it was just the freshness of the peach)!

When you think of grilling, what thoughts or memories come to mind?

Grilling is such an ancient form of cooking that brings together people of all generations and across all continents. When I began culinary school, the grill scared me the most. Cooking with fire was just not something I had much experience with, but it was something I wanted to get really good at. I began reading about and watching documentaries about grilling. One of my favorite shows is David Chang’s Ugly Delicious. Season 1 Episode 5 is all about barbecue. He travels across the southern United States analyzing “What is BBQ?” He then travels around the world and looks at so many cultural food traditions that use barbecue methods for so many regional dishes. He really pushed my thinking about what grilling can be. As a chef, it is so important to look at techniques and think about where they come from and how to execute them well. We can then put our own twists on them and continue to push boundaries and introduce our own flair into ancient and traditional ways of cooking. It’s truly exciting!

Share a story about smoking (food) and what went well or didn’t go well.

For the past year and half, I worked at a restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI. They have a smoker, and the chefs love to smoke foods! While I worked there, I learned a lot about smoking meats– and even vegetables, fruits, and cheeses! This summer, my chef was experimenting with smoked fruits and vegetables for a vegan dinner the chefs were hosting at the restaurant. The most interesting experiment, to me, was smoked watermelon. The watermelon let out a lot of its juices, and the juices became dark and had a very smokey, ham-like flavor to them. It was very interesting! The flavor was different than what everyone expected, but it turned out to be a new and interesting technique and use of the smoker!

It’s not too late to apply to our National Culinary Scholarship! Apply or share with someone you know today.
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