Longer Restaurant Week means more ways to help SICE students



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


Aug. 1, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. An extra day for Restaurant Week means more opportunities to help students at Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

This year’s event, with more than 60 restaurants participating, runs Aug. 13 to 24. During those 12 days, $1 from every Restaurant Week meal is donated to a SICE scholarship fund. Almost $75,000 has been donated, and Restaurant Week scholarships helped three SICE students — Duane Hobart, Victoria Hornby and Veronica Polniak — with their culinary dreams last year.

The scholarship that Hobart received is funding some big plans: He is working on a culinary arts degree-management track with a personal chef certification from GRCC. He’s also dual-enrolled at Ferris State University, where he will obtain a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management with a culinary emphasis.

Hobart, a 2002 Manistee High School graduate, wants to become an executive chef at an up-scale resort. His summer internship at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is giving him a taste of what that will be like.

“I chose to go to SICE because of its track record, knowledgeable staff and amazing course offerings,” he said. “I’m getting hands-on education from professional and knowledgeable faculty. They not only share their experience, they share their passion for the culinary arts.”

Polniak, a 2009 City High School graduate, is working on an associate degree in culinary arts at SICE. She then plans to attend Ferris State University for a bachelor’s degree in hotel management, with a culinary emphasis.

“With the scholarships I’ve earned throughout my years there (at SICE), I will be able to graduate debt-free and progress to my next degree without much financial stain,” she said.

Polniak, who works at Relish Green Grocer, eventually wants to run a large food service operation or work in sales.

She called her SICE experience “life changing.”

“Not only did I learn how to improve my cooking skills, but I gained confidence in myself beyond cooking,” she said. "I connected with everyone there — from my peers to the staff.

“Culinary school is like a family we all belong to for two to three years. I keep in touch with other culinary students and the staff. We all come away from the experience with a positive attitude and help each other find jobs and opportunities in the field.”

SICE program director Dan Gendler said the Restaurant Week scholarships show that the SICE family extends throughout the West Michigan culinary community.

“We are grateful to Experience Grand Rapids for making GRCC and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education such an integral part of Restaurant Week,” he said. “The Grand Rapids area culinary scene has a lot to offer, and SICE alumni are a big part of that.”

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, as well as at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.