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Pop-Up Lunch Showcases Skills of Sun Valley Culinary Institute Students
Tuesday, November 21, 2023


The pop-up lunch at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute was poppin’.

Lisa Holley and her friends sat in one corner pretending they were having a picnic as they savored their blackened rock bass sandwiches and looked at Holley’s latest art work depicting pelicans.

“Did you know pelicans can hold three gallons of water in their beak, and that they live 40 years?” Trudi Schneider asked. “I learned that from lisa.”

Whit Atkinson dropped in, along with other movers and shakers from around the valley. And, finally, the Wood River Valley’s four mayors showed up, sharing a table as the paparazzi leaned in.

Hailey Mayor Martha Burke was skipping her usual spot at The Senior Connection lunch to be there, while Bellevue Mayor Chris Johnson was bypassing Bellevue’s lunch spot--Mahoney’s Bar & Grille.

“This is the best opportunity to see the students in action and celebrate their success,” said Burke. “And this is such a lovely great event—look at how hard the students are working in the kitchen.”

“A couple of the students are from Bellevue. So I’ve chosen to celebrate them,” added Johnson.

The pop-up lunch was sort of a final exam for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s five students. They’ve spent the past three months learning knife skills and ways to prepare and plate chicken, meat and seafood. Now they will work in local restaurants, including Sun Valley Resort’s Konditorei and The Village Station, as well as resort catering, during the busy winter season.

They will return to the Culinary Institute during slack season to learn baking skills, then finish up their year-long program by working in Sun Valley-area restaurants during the busy summer season.

On Friday students prepared a creamy roasted butternut squash soup with a dollop of crème fraiche and a choice of salads.  They also prepared blackened rock bass sandwiches, a hearty burger utilizing brisket and bacon and a shiitake Bahn Mi sandwich.

The student chefs include two Wood River Valley students.

  • Aracely Prosopio Damian grew up in Huancayo, Peru, where she learned to cook alongside hergrandmother at a very young age. The rice pudding the students made for the pop-up utilized her grandmother’s recipe.

    She now calls the Wood River Valley Home and, in fact, decided to attend the Sun Valley Culinary Institute after stints at The Sawtooth Club, Bigwood Bread Bakery and Café, Atkinsons’ Market and the Village Market.

    “I want to improve my skills and start my own business someday,” she said.

  • Gianmarco Ortiz Gutierrez became interested in culinary arts at age 6 when he began pondering what made his mother’s homemade pies so good. His curiosity was further stoked when he enrolled in Joyce Pratt’s Nutrition & Foods class at Wood River High School and learned about the multifaceted world of the food industry.

    After graduating Cum Laude with honors, he is excited about the chance to learn the science and art of cooking, while growing his passion for learning the skills he needs to serve fine meals with great flavors and unique ingredients.

  • Christopher Kapeleris grew up in Twin Falls where he remembers picking fresh tomatoes with his dad and immediately slicing, seasoning and devouring them. An artist, he often sketches out the look of his dishes, trying to convey the art of food through design, layout, flavor, color and texture.
  • Aiden Donahue of Boise began cooking as a youngster to turn his mother’s not-so-great dishes into something super delicious. Watching the haste with which his family devoured his first lasagna, he vowed to become a professional cook
  • Justin Cochran is an Army veteran from San Diego who served deployments as a calvary scout in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. He developed his interest in food by accompanying his grandmother on trips to local restaurants where he experienced the sweet, briny flavor of scallops and other fresh seafood.

    The Culinary Institute’s Executive Director Karl Uri called the pop-up lunch a perfect send-off for the students as they head off to local restaurants.

    Scott Mason, owner of Mason Family Restaurants, said it has been wonderful to have cooks who are so willing to work hard and learn at the same time: “The Sun Valley Culinary Institute is a unique and effective program that brings the best of paid apprenticeship, hands-on opportunities and education together in one place.”

    Cory Clayville, who has worked for the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, feeds off the students’ passion so much that she recently took on the role of the board president for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute, hosting its Fall Gathering fundraiser at her Deer Creek ranch.

    Right now, she said, the Culinary Institute is working hard to raise money to underwrite the students’ $15,000 tuition plus room and board since the costs of a quality culinary education are an impediment to many high school graduates. The Institute’s tuition is substantially below that of most other culinary programs,  she added.

    “The culinary classes help us pay the bills,” she said. “The scholarships we provide help kids who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do training.”

    Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks, who spent part of his time during lunch in a deep discussion about Stanley Tucci’s book “Taste,” said he has been to a number of events at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute.

    “They were terrific, and this is a terrific space. Remember when this was an old bar? Now look at it!”


    The Sun Valley Culinary Institute will announce its January and February cooking classes in early December. Check for more information.

    There are still seats for

  • Dinner with James Beard Award Winning Chefs John Currence and Vish Bhatt on Dec. 15.
  • Holiday Dungeness Crab Dinner on Dec. 22
  • Apres Ski with Esta from 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 26.

~  Today's Topics ~

Advocates’ Ribbon Raise Offers a Burst of Color and Hope

Pride Week Expands to Include Brunch and Argyros Show

Hailey Library Offers Historic Walking Tour








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