Grand Rapids Community College’s(GRCC) Secchia Institute for Culinary Education works with more than 60 local restaurants to create a unique Restaurant Week experience. Diners are offered special menus at local establishments, including an exclusive "Chef's Choice" option, with $1 of each meal going into a culinary scholarship fund.
According to Experience Grand Rapids, Restaurant Week has raised more than $143,000 for GRCC culinary students. Seven students received scholarships last year. The 2018 Restaurant Week is currently underway and runs through mid-August.
Scholarship recipients from previous years appreciated the funding. “I had no idea that I would be able to get something like this," said Jarrod Benjamin, who aspires to be a personal chef one day. "I was able to continue with school because of this scholarship."
Amanda Barnett left a teaching job to return to the classroom for her culinary degree. She plans to run an after-school cooking program for kids.
"Going from teaching to being a student again has been hard to adjust," she said. "Working in a restaurant too has been tough because the hours are really long, so it's really helped me a lot to have scholarships to help pay for classes."
Werner Absenger, director of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, said Restaurant Week's benefits touch all parts of West Michigan's restaurant industry.
"Customers can try new foods at some of the best restaurants in the area," he said. "Restaurants are exposed to new customers, having a chance to turn one-time diners into regulars. And the scholarship money raised helps our students offset the cost of education -- a win-win-win situation for customers, participating proprietors, and students."