Camarillo, CA – For the past two months, the youth of Casa Pacifica have been taking an Italian themed cooking class taught by Casa Pacifica Board President William Powell – affectionately known by the kids as “Chef Willy.” This weekly cooking class is part of Casa Pacifica’s Vocational Education Program, which includes the use of the brand-new Bauer Teaching Kitchen. The “final exam” of the class was to cook a gourmet four-course meal. The lucky recipients of the gourmet Italian feast was Sean Leonard and 10 guests. Leonard was the generous bidder and winner of the “Yummie Top Chef Jr.” luncheon which was auctioned off at Casa Pacifica’s 6th Annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner on Friday, May 31st. “We were so impressed with the entire event – from the enthusiastic youth that greeted us with hors d’oeuvres to the fantastic environment and meal they prepared and served us,” raved Leonard of the experience.
Leonard is President and CEO of S.L. Leonard & Associates, Inc., an Owner’s Representation, Project and Construction Management firm in Camarillo. Leonard and his company recently assisted Casa Pacifica in the management of the construction of their new Training Institute and Archie & Wells Fargo Co-Occurring Cottage on the Camarillo campus. Casa Pacifica’s new Career Technical Education (CTE) Program was created when Casa Pacifica identified a need for a quality college/career readiness program within a therapeutic environment for the foster and at-risk youth it serves. The CTE Program will have two programs – digital arts and culinary arts, which will help students, up to 150 youth annually, develop entry level occupational skills. Students will also develop increased self-esteem and confidence in their future, another important component for their success.
The menu for the luncheon included bruschetta, breaded swordfish medallions, duck with fig sauce and mushroom risotto, and homemade biscotti and ice cream. Powell’s interest in the culinary arts started at an early age after learning basic homestyle cooking techniques from his mother. After retiring in 2006, he decided he wanted to improve his skills to the level of advanced amateur. He attended the Enthusiast’s Program at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. “My experience with the youth at Casa Pacifica was great fun!” said Powell of his recent cooking venture. “The funniest line of the course was when one of the students was whisking Caesar salad dressing when she looked up and said, ‘This is very therapeutic!’ This led to a broader discussion between the kids and I about how cooking can be a creative endeavor, much like any other form of art. And it is, in fact, very therapeutic when we create things from our combination of skills and imagination.”
Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families is a crisis-care and residential treatment facility for foster or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The agency is the largest non-profit provider of children’s mental health services in both counties and administers a number of community-based programs designed to strengthen families and keep children in their homes and communities. Casa Pacifica is also a foster family agency, which recruits and trains families for potential placement with a foster youth. For more information about Casa Pacifica visit its website www.casapacifica.org or call the Development & Public Relations Department at (805) 445-7800.