Friends of the French Chef Fundraiser Sets a New Record

Posted 4/13/2018

More than $120,000 Raised to Support the French Chef Exchange

The annual Fleur de Lys Gala and Auction raised more than $120,000 to fund the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) French Chef Exchange. This exceeds the previous record high of $104,000 raised in 2015.  In addition, a record 193 people attended the event.

Since 1986, DMACC has hosted a French Chef Exchange where two chefs from the St. Etienne region of France come to DMACC’s Iowa Culinary Institute (ICI®) each year in January demonstrating techniques of classical French cuisine to all DMACC culinary arts students and faculty.  Then each May, the top ICI® graduates travel to France, serving individual culinary apprenticeships in restaurants of chefs from the L’Association des Cuisiniers de la Loire. 

In order to fund the French Chef Exchange, a group of community members formed a special fund-raising committee known as the “Friends of the French Chefs.”  The “Friends of the French Chefs” organize a French gourmet dinner (with paired wines) and an auction. Proceeds provide scholarships for the top eight graduates to travel to France every May and do culinary internships with renowned French chefs.

“The success of this event guarantees the continuation of our annual French Chef Exchange, which means that as well as bringing guest French chefs to the ICI®, our top eight graduates have a life-changing experience,” said Maura Nelson, DMACC French Professor and Founder and Coordinator of the DMACC French Chef program.  “When they return, many of them stay right here in Central Iowa, working as Executive Chefs or Sous Chefs, improving the culinary scene of our region.”

Nelson said the first auction, held more than 20 years ago, raised about $6,000.

Auction Chair Cathy Gullion worked tirelessly asking businesses to donate items for the auction and coordinating the numerous silent and live auction items and packages. 

“The tremendous support of the nearly 200 people who attended this event helps make the DMACC ICI® program clearly one of the best culinary programs in the country,” said DMACC President Rob Denson.  “DMACC relies on these valuable friends to help cover costs of our French Chef Exchange.”

DMACC Executive Chef Robert Anderson said Central Iowa has reaped the benefits of what DMACC ICI® students have learned.

”The fine dining scene has significantly changed and improved over the last 30-plus years of the French Chefs Exchange program,” said Anderson.  “To have DMACC ICI® students travel to France and learn from world-renown chefs is invaluable.  These DMACC ICI® graduates then come back and work as professional chefs in the Central Iowa area.” 

The eight ICI® students who received Marge Anderson French Culinary Scholarships and who will be going to France this May include:  Brenton Dahlstrom, Cole Gruis, Nicole Irwin, Nicole Jenkins, Michael Lawler, Maggie Schilling, Cesar Vargas and Rachel Walker. The scholarships were set up in 2009 to honor DMACC Executive Chef Robert Anderson’s late mother.

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