W Seattle’s Trace restaurant, Art Institute cook up plan to grow culinary talent

Drosendahl,%20Glenn.jpg?window_id=10Glenn DrosendahlContributing Writer-Puget Sound Business Journal
Hotel W Seattle and its restaurant, Trace, had a problem – finding talented staff members.
At the same time, the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle was looking for ways to help gifted students pay their tuition and land jobs in their chosen field.
As a way to address those problems, the hotel and Art Institute have joined forces to create an unusual corporate/educational partnership that has both sides almost giddy over the possibilities.
Under the still-evolving plan, the school’s students will get internship and mentoring opportunities and the hotel will have a chance to find and groom potential employees.
A key part of the deal is raising money for a scholarship program to help the most promising students finish their training. Quarterly dinners at both Trace and the institute’s restaurant are among events planned to spur donations.
“It’s just so synergistic, we all get excited talking about it,” said Tom Limberg, W Seattle’s general manager. “If we follow our planned course of action, rewards will come for everybody.”
Art Institute President Elden Mondayagrees. “I think there are massive opportunities on both sides,” he said.
A Jan. 17 event is set for 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. to launch the program and gain community support. The featured guest will be celebrity chef Tiffany Derry, a 2003 graduate of the Art Institute of Houston who co-owns Dallas restaurant Private Social and was a 2010 contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” program.
The idea for the Trace/Art Institute partnership came out of meetings at W Seattle.
“We were brainstorming how to solve one of our big challenges, finding talent,” Limberg said. “It’s never easy to find the right people. Even when unemployment’s high, we’re still challenged to find the right people.”
Teaming up with the Art Institute’s culinary school to form relationships and grow talent seemed like a possible solution. The school enthusiastically agreed to a year-long deal that begins next month.
Planned are quarterly dinners led by chefs Ian Mackay, the school’s academic director, and Steven Ariel, Trace’s chef de cuisine, at Portfolio, the institute’s student-run public restaurant, as well as dinners at Trace with culinary students helping to produce the meals.
Students will be able to cook one-on-one with Ariel and his pastry team, meet vendors, compete to create dishes for Trace and work with executive chef Ryan Loo and the hotel’s banquet managers and staff.
Also planned are non-credit culinary workshops and cooking classes for student and the public at the Art Institute.
The dinners and other events are seen as opportunities to gain exposure for both the restaurant and the school, and to attract private and corporate donation’s to the school’s education foundation. Limberg hopes funding will be sufficient to offer scholarships in the $5,000 range to existing students.
“This will help people looking for jobs related to the field they put their hearts and souls into,” he said.

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