Vincent Abate earns culinary school grant from local group Chefs4Students
Steamboat Springs — Vincent Abate started working in kitchens across Steamboat Springs at age 13. In the past seven years, the curly haired Steamboat Springs High School graduate has sauced pizzas at Mambo Italiano, whipped up pastas at Mazzola’s Majestic Italian Diner and catered gourmet lunches and dinners at Vista Verde Ranch.
So when it came time to choose a post-high-school path, Abate wanted nothing else but to stay in the kitchen.
“I grew up with it, and I just really like the atmosphere of a restaurant,” Abate said. “I don’t have a favorite dish — I just like to cook.”
This fall, Abate, now 20, will enter his fourth year at Johnson & Wales University in the culinary nutrition program, but not without the help of a locally based grant program that aims to encourage students like Abate to follow their dreams.
Chefs4Students is a nonprofit organization run through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation that provides $1,000 grants to culinary students.
This year, Abate was one of two recipients from an international pool of thousands of applicants. He also was the first recipient ever from Steamboat, where Chefs4Students was founded by longtime local chef David Nelson and his wife, Pamela.
“I’m delighted to get this scholarship,” Abate said.
Nelson, a private chef who teaches cooking classes at the Homesteader kitchen shop, launched the grant program about seven years ago after founding the online community Chef2Chef. Chefs4Students, he said, is a way for the international community of chefs to invest in the future of the culinary arts.
“We all have the same passion to see people succeed,” Nelson said. “These kids in these culinary schools, a lot of them get grants up front the first year from the schools, then the second year comes along, and they have to pay for all of it.
“The goal is to get the chefs that have a passion for it to go to a good school, so they come out totally trained, and when they come into our restaurants and work under us, they have basic tools to succeed.”
So far, the organization has doled out $89,000 in scholarships using funds raised through online donations and by dinner fundraisers held by chefs across the country.
David and Pamela, who acts as her husband’s administrative manager, baker and pastry chef, have always wanted a Steamboat student to benefit from the grant. But a panel of chefs from around the world chooses the final recipients after the couple narrows down the field.
And the Nelsons had their fingers crossed for Abate, who they said had a strong essay and recommendations.
“In the process of going through the applications, you can really see the ones that really understand it,” Pamela said.
Abate said he plans to do an internship cooking at a destination spa next spring and hopes to someday be a private chef, like Nelson.
“I don’t know what to say,” Abate said after receiving his check and meeting the Nelsons on Tuesday morning. “It’s just great.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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