California Youth Connection (CYC) Serves Up Fifth Annual Culinary Inspirations Event, Linking Local Chefs with Foster Youth

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Twenty local chefs are paired with current and former foster youth from throughout Southern California for CYC's Culinary Inspirations event. Chefs will be creating tasting dishes inspired the life of the youth and the partnership.

It’s a match made in culinary heaven: Norell Perez, a former foster youth and current CYC member with a passion for gardening, has been teamed up with Chefs Nguyen and Thi Tran, who run Los Angeles’ pan-Asian Starry Kitchen. Together they will present a dish at the California Youth Connection’s (CYC) Culinary Inspirations Event on Wednesday, May 21, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Olympic Collection, 11301 Olympic Blvd., Grand Ballroom, West Los Angeles, Calif. 90064.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, CYC’s Culinary Inspirations pairs renowned, local chefs with a current or former foster youth to create delicious delicacies for those in attendance. The event also features local breweries, wineries and distilleries, while simultaneously serving as a fundraiser to raise money for the statewide advocacy organization, which empowers foster youth to change laws affecting the foster care system.

Perez and Chefs Tran will be whipping up steamed Vietnamese rice crepe bites with lemongrass beef, confit chicken skin and fresh herbs from Perez’s own garden.

“What's amazing about Norell, is despite whatever labels anyone may want to place on her, she is very passionate and focused on her garden, growing those vegetables and learning how to feed people with them as well” says Chef Nguyen Tran, who elaborates, “We chose to make this dish is because it was the best way to showcase Norell's love for gardening and agriculture, [and] further her knowledge of Asian flavors.”

Perez, a 24 year-old who attends Harbor Community College, began gardening to help with her healing process. Learning from her foster mother, who is also an avid gardener, she shares her passion for gardening with everyone she comes in contact with, from the students she peer mentors at Long Beach Community College (LBCC) to the neighbors who stop by to see what she has growing in her front yard.

“I’m doing my part to make the community a better place for not only youth, but for the people who will be working with them. I think that’s why the garden is a big part of my life, so many different kinds of plants all needing different types of love and care,” says Perez, who is also this year’s recipient of the Inspiration Award.

Perez and Chefs Tran obviously share more than a passion for cooking with fresh ingredients, they also understand the importance of giving back to their communities. While the chefs of Starry Kitchen focus on doing whatever they can to give back and support disadvantaged youth, Perez is developing a cookbook for foster youth, titled Recipes for Life.

Perez believes CYC can give foster youth tools to empower themselves and hopes to show youth some of the changes made by others in and out the system.

She is looking forward to showing people that foster youth can thrive if given a chance at the event and to serving up her co-creation with Chefs Tran.

“Food is the medium that we break bread over, make up, break up, make love, catch up and get to know each other,” says Chef Tran when asked why food is the perfect reason to bring people together in support of CYC, “Eating and drinking are things we as humans have to do in order to sustain, and enjoying our food is much more enjoyable when surrounded by friends and family. It evokes great conversation, memorable experiences and in turn embeds in our lives those smells and flavors that will forever be reminiscent of those memories as well.”

“Norell's a very giving person, and that attitude is incredibly contagious,” says Chef Tran, “We just want to help her spread that love through her vegetables and herbs.”


media contact: Jacque Lindeman    phone: (714) 334-0088

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Jacque Lyn Lindeman
since: 01/2012
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