Schoolcraft College alumni are well-known for giving back to their school and to their community. One of many examples is the Culinary Extravaganza (CulEx), a celebration of fine food and wine that traditionally serves as the Schoolcraft College Foundation’s signature fundraising event, with proceeds benefiting students and the program.
A key reason for the success of this event is the support from area establishments, many of which employ Schoolcraft College alumni in key positions. They donate delicious food and beverages and generously lend their time and talent to ensure a successful experience.
Sadly, the CulEx had to be canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, which has devastated the restaurant industry. To help restaurants in this time of need, the Schoolcraft College Foundation offered a helping hand in the form of $1,000 grants to 20 area restaurants that are owned by Schoolcraft alumni and/or employ Schoolcraft students.
Most restaurants are in Detroit, but businesses in Birmingham, Hazel Park, Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Redford and Royal Oak benefited as well.
“Past support we received from area restaurants in terms of their delicious food and beverages, their amazing talent and their generous time really makes the Culinary Extravaganza happen,” said Dawn Magretta, Executive Director, Schoolcraft College Foundation & Alumni Relations. “These restaurants have done so much to help us over the years, so we wanted to return the favor and help them during these challenging times.”
News of the difficult times in the restaurant industry prompted Joan A. Gebhardt, Chair of the Schoolcraft College Board of Trustees, to act.
“The food industry has been devastated by the COVID pandemic probably more than any other,” she said. “Reading and hearing on TV about chefs losing their jobs and restaurants closing made me want to help them.
"At Schoolcraft we prepare our students to be ‘job ready,’ but nothing prepares our culinary grads, our extended family, for dealing with this pandemic."
Certified Executive Chef Chris Misiak was immediately enthusiastic about the concept and helped bring it to reality.
“Schoolcraft College is committed to supporting the community it serves, and the Culinary Arts Department reflects that mission,” he said. “In Culinary Arts we see our alumni and students as a type of family and we will always support family.”
The cash infusion has been greatly appreciated.
“I am touched and appreciative that the same institution that trained me as a chef is supporting me again in such a challenging time,” said Chef Paul Grosz, owner of Cuisine Restaurant in Detroit and a Schoolcraft College alumni. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the food industry tremendously, and I am so thankful that our community is coming together to support each other.”
Kelli Lewton, chef/owner of 2 Unique Caterers and Event Planners in Royal Oak, has been associated with Schoolcraft College for more than 30 years, first as a student, then a member of the culinary team and an instructor in the Culinary Arts department for more than 20 years.
“I was honestly brought to tears when I opened the letter and found the check,” Lewton said. “Sometimes the help you need on a dark day is to know that someone is thinking about you and cares.”
Lewton said she put the $1,000 toward payroll for her business, which is entering its 30th year in operation.
“It sounds simple, but kindness is really what we all need during these dark days” Lewton said. “Kindness has a spark that can fuel fires of hope, change and better in our lives and businesses.”