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Graduation Brings Poached Pears, Tomato Jam and Spaetzle Soup
River Greenfield checks the teriyaki salmon.
Saturday, November 20, 2021


Like to keep your tummy well fed?

You’ll be happy to know that the future of good eating in Sun Valley seem assured, given the performance that the Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s first professional class cooked up Friday.

Students finished up an eight-week course learning to prepare meats, chicken and seafood on Friday before heading out to local restaurants where they will spend the busy ski season apprenticing under some of the valley’s best chefs.

Curtis Ginnetti and Drake Humphreys serve the Turkey and Spaetzle Soup to Harry Griffith and Courtney Donaca.

Their eight-week graduation assignment: To prepare a meal for relatives and a few Sun Valley Culinary Institute board members. And even Julia Child would have been over-the-top gushing about their efforts.

The four aspiring chefs concocted a menu with instructor Geoff Felsenthal’s help that was to die for:

  • Turkey and Spaetzle Soup with crunchy straw-like leeks that had been sliced thin and deep fried in flour
  • Salad of Roasted Golden Beets, Poached Pear, Feta and Peppered Pecans served in a pear/wine vinaigrette
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich made with three cheeses, including smoked gouda and white cheddar and flavored with tomato jam
  • Braised Herbed Chicken cooked with turnips and other root vegetables in the same pan so that it was moist and flavorful
  • Salmon Teriyaki
  • Stir-fried Mushroom Rice that featured jasmine rice, julienned leeks, scrambled eggs, bok choy, edamame and sauteed mushrooms sauteed in fish sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce
  • Sweet Potato Pie with Lemon Meringue
  • Apple Crisp following a recipe from the grandmother of one of the students.

James Beard, eat your heart out.

The Salad of Roasted Golden Beets, Poached Pear, Feta and Peppered Pecans contained fresh ingredients in season.

Stephanie McCall and John Teeters, who’d traveled from Boise for the lunch, seemed well pleased, ascribing their son River Greenfield an A as they happily sampled the fare.

“I loved the homemade tomato jelly on the grilled cheese sandwich,” said Teeter. “I’d say he passed the class.”

River’s girlfriend Elle Wright, who is at Boise State University studying to become a veterinarian, was equally pleased as she talked about all the fine meals that she hopes is in her future

“I think it’s awesome that he is learning to be a chef,” she said. “He sends me pictures of what he’s learning to cook and they really get me to salivating.”

Instructor Geoff Felsenthal said he plans to introduce the students to flavors from around the world in their spring session.

The students will head to restaurants in the for the next four months where they will see how their new-found skills translate to the real world.

Jon Watson will work under Scott Mason at Ketchum Grill; River Greenfield will continue the work he already started under Chris Kastner at CK’s. Drake Humphreys will work for Sun Valley Resort, likely alternating between the Konditorei and Sun Valley Club.

Curtis Ginnetti, who lives in McCall, will return there to work at Brundage Mountain ski area.

Four months from now, the students will return to the Culinary Institute where they will go into baking mode, learning how to make pasta, pastry and breads.

John Teeters and Courtney Donaca were intrigued by the array of items in front of them.

River Greenfield said he developed a passion for food when he was “super injured” two years after falling off a cliff backpacking and blowing out his knee. During a long recuperation in bed, he began concocting recipes as something to do.

Greenfield said he hopes to move from prepping and salads to entrees like fish and crab cakes at CK’s now that he’s finished eight weeks at the Culinary Institute. “I’m looking forward to working there full-time. CK’s is super nice, great people, surprisingly low stress, super chill. Obviously busy but organized.”

Felsenthal noted that the kids had come a long way from the first day in class when they received their white chef’s coats with their names on them and practiced cutting potato squares to match up with the squares on a special cooking ruler.

“Today is the completion of everything they’ve done from soup to sandwiches to chicken and salmon,” he said. “I’m thrilled at their progress.”

Sun Valley Economic Development Director Harry Griffith, who started developing a professional culinary program for Ketchum six years ago, called the students’ performance “tasty.”

“I’m excited to see how they perform in the next four months, to see if they’re better prepared as a result of their time here. And I look forward to seeing this program expand. Instead of four students, maybe eight. Or, six.”

Board member Rich LeFaivre concurred: “It’s exciting to get the professional students going since we had to delay it a year because of COVID.”

His wife Terri LeFaivre chimed in: “Salmon and chicken are hard to get to come out right and what they’ve made is so moist.”

“And the grilled cheese sandwich—it has so much flavor,” added Rich LeFaivre.


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