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Upcoming art, culinary show benefits STRIVE students

Ed Coenen looks on as Bellarietta Bistro owner and chef J.V. Zontelli demonstrates a food preparation technique.

The fourth annual St. Croix Art & Culinary Show promises to be an international experience.

The event, hosted by the Rotary Club of New Richmond, is planned from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at R & D Banquet Hall.

Funds raised through the show help to fund the STRIVE Scholarship program. The program encourages students at New Richmond and Somerset high schools to strive for a one-letter-grade improvement in their grade point average in their final year of school.

If the students achieve the goal, and attend the required mentorship meetings during the year, they qualify for post-secondary scholarship monies.

One of this year's STRIVE students, Ed Coenen, New Richmond, was thrilled when he found out that the Rotary Art & Culinary Show was part of the program.

Coenen plans to attend the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in the Twin Cities next year. Cost of the school is around $42,000 for a 15-month program, so Coenen hopes to secure as much scholarship funding as possible.

Coenen said he wasn't sure what career path to follow until he was a sophomore and started working at the Laurel Supper Club as a prep cook.

"I found out I love working with food," he said. "I had a great time doing it."

Once he completes his training at Le Cordon Bleu, Coenen said he hopes to either become a chef at a fancy restaurant or own his own catering business or become a personal chef for a famous celebrity.

Coenen has signed up as a volunteer at the upcoming St. Croix Art & Culinary Show. He is required to complete four hours of community service work to qualify for his STRIVE scholarship. About 20 of the STRIVE scholarship candidates have signed up to help during the event.

"I thought the community service was going to be picking up trash or something," he said. "This should be really fun for me."

As he volunteers, Coenen said he hopes to pick up a few pointers from chefs and cooks who will be creating culinary masterpieces for those attending.

J.V. Zontelli, owner of Bellarietta Bistro in New Richmond, has been involved in the Rotary show all four years of its existence.

He offered Coenen a few tips about getting started in the restaurant business as the two met for the first time recently.

"You've got to stay away from oil," he told Coenen, offering a few stories about burns he'd received after coming in contact with the hot substance.

Zontelli mentioned that several of his staff members at the bistro were trained at Le Cordon Bleu and told Coenen to absorb as much training as he can while in school.

"They put out some good people," he said.

On-the-job experience, Zontelli added, is also very important for new chefs.

The show

Many of the celebration's favorite features will return this year, including gourmet food samples, art demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and spirit samples. Local musicians will provide live entertainment throughout the evening.

This year's event will carry an international theme, to augment Rotary International's focus on worldwide health and hunger projects.

Culinary participants will be offering taste treats with an ethnic flavor. Businesses that have agreed to participate so far are Acapulco Restaurant, Agave Kitchen, The Bean Bag Coffee House, Bellarietta Bistro, Champs, Family Fresh, Hammond Hotel, Ready Randy's, Suzanna's, Star Prairie Trout Farm, T's Meat Market, Tangled Up In Blue and West Wind Supper Club.

Another big part of the night are artists, who will display and demonstrate their favorite artwork.

Featured artists will include Susan Davis, Bridget Foust, Carl and Sandy Holman, Margaret Rivard, Julie Adams, Jess and Dave Gavin, Marsie Danielson, Karla Faith Ness, Allie Ness, Signe Shores, Gail Dalzell, Lauren Edwards, Connie Burch, Dave Geister, Judy Paulsen, Genie Castro and David Johnson.

Art mediums include everything from oil paintings to sculpture to mixed media.

There will be a silent auction and door prizes of the created art at the show. Everyone who buys a ticket will have a chance to take home a piece of art of their choosing at the end of the night.

Tickets for the event are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. A tax deduction can be claimed on $20 of the ticket price. Tickets are available at Ready Randy's, The SPACE and The Deerfield.