Calling all foodies and lovers of celebrity chefs! New York City’s only public culinary high school is hosting an exciting and interactive dine-around fundraising evening featuring some of the biggest names in the culinary world presented by the Food Network. On Monday, March 3rd the chic Midtown Loft and Terrace space will house “Small Plates, Big Hearts,” a four hour evening featuring sample food tastings, hob-nobbing with some culinary wizards and a program all to benefit New York City’s Food and Finance High School, which sits on West 50th Street. If you’re unfamiliar with the school by name, some of their groundbreaking initiatives are changing the ways that education is disseminated to young people around the country.
Considering that New York City is considered the financial capital of the world and that our City is a renowned breeding ground for culling some of the finest chefs from around the globe, it’s only fitting that such a creative and focused high school be housed here- aiming to equip our diverse population with some of the more necessary skills for a career in entrepreneurial ventures. Moreover, the Food and Finance High School aims to assist a great many underprivileged youths, teaching them both life skills and disciplines that are truly not widely available in our area. And with roughly 90% of the graduating students moving on to a collegiate career, the work being done at the Food and Finance High School is not only notable for its focus but also for its success rate.
With the school’s fundraising efforts gearing up for the March 3rd event, LocalBozo.com had the opportunity to grab a few minutes with Nan Shipley, among the school’s most ardent advocates and chairperson of the board of the 501c3 that supports the school. You can read our full interview below about what guests can expect from the star studded evening which includes the likes of Chef Bobby Flay and the event’s host, Food Network’s own Sunny Anderson among other luminaries from the world of cooking as well as gaining a little bit more of a background on the school itself and where the proceeds raised from “Small Plates, Big Hearts” are headed. The evening is a tremendous opportunity to come out for an evening of delectable eats and drinks for a worthy cause, as you’ll read below. Join LocalBozo.com on March 3rd, and hey, we’ll even take your picture with Bobby Flay…if you can get his ear. Grab your tickets here!
LocalBozo.com: Small Plates, Big Hearts is an event geared toward philanthropic event goers to benefit the Food and Finance High School. Lets talk first about the High School itself and where the funds that are raised will go.
Nan Shipley: Funds raised for the school to go scholarships for the kids, and for things like college application fees and the SAT fees. We also have academic support, as well as advanced culinary classes and a visiting chef’s program for the kids. Many of our students come from a disadvantaged background, and many live below the poverty level. We have a program of healthy after school snacks for all of the kids who participate in after school.
LocalBozo.com: The High School certainly seems like a completely creative and niche sort of place but certainly one suitable to New York City especially. Are there similar schools popping up around the country for high school students in this sort of specialized environment?
NS: We are the only Culinary High School in New York, and one of only a few around the country. The school is called CTE: Career Technical Education. It provides a regular Regents’s diploma with real world experience which prepares kids for the workplace. Our students earn national certifications which will help them when they graduate. The great thing about our school is that 90% of our graduates go on to college! That’s an exceptional percentage.
LocalBozo.com: There are a plethora of celebrities attending the event- most of which from the culinary world. How challenging was it to get these chefs on board for the event and who can guests expect to schmooze with that evening?
NS: It’s not at all difficult to get chef’s involved. We have a really active advisory board with many celebrity chefs. Every chef who visits the school wants to get involved. These are kids who face incredible challenges, and the chefs know that these students will one day be working in their kitchens. They are the next generation of chefs. Today, for example, we had Chef Marc Murphy teach a demo to 17 kids. What an incredible experience for these students to watch, learn, and interact with one of the country’s most prominent chefs. The event will be hosted by Sunny Anderson! Bobby Flay is dropping by for the VIP hour. I’m sure we’ll have some special guests as well.
LocalBozo.com: The event is running for 3 hours for General Admission guests with an extra hour for VIPs. What can we anticipate from the elaborate VIP hour?
NS: It’s a more intimate way to interact with the participating chefs, and spend some quality time with Bobby Flay and Sunny Anderson.
LocalBozo.com: The posh Midtown Loft is slated to play host to the event. Lets talk about the space and how it was selected for Small Plates, Big Hearts
NS: It’s a beautiful space! Last year the event was held in the Food Network Studio, but it wasn’t available this year. However, we have the chefs from the Food Network creating some incredible food for the event. Food Network is our presenting sponsor as well. they are very generous to the school, and many of their employees volunteer their time for our students.
LocalBozo.com: As a small not for profit, what has historically been the biggest challenge in attracting students to attend the School?
NS: We are a NYC public school. Not a charter, a DOE school. But we rely on outside support for all of our innovative programs. that’s where the not for profit come in. We have a hydroponic lab and and we have an actual fish lab in the basement with 10,000 tilapia! Every year we have about 4000 students who rank our school as their first choice. Students are chosen by lottery to gain entrance.
LocalBozo.com: Considering much of the focus is on culinary studies, have you found the NYC restaurant community to be fairly welcoming as far as guest lectures, intern placement upon graduating etc?
NS: The culinary community has been very generous to us! Baldor donates product to our school, as does Murray’s chicken and Colavita olive oil. Our seniors get paid internships to work 250 hours in different restaurants throughout the city. Right now we have students at the Modern, Maialino, the Food Network, to name a few places.
LocalBozo.com: Are there any surprises in store for attendees on event night?
NS: For sure! We know it will be an incredible event! We have a live auction and a silent auction with some fantastic, one of a kind items.
LocalBozo.com: Anything else you’d like to leave for the readers of LocalBozo.com?
NS: People who want to donate, or take a tour of the school or who want to learn more can visit our website at foodfinancehs.org. Or they can come to the event and support a truly worthy cause. We are a small charity with a big impact.