Greet the Giver: Embracing culinary dreams

Nonprofit encourages students to pursue education

Judy Hushon, President of the Board of Directors Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation of Southwest Florida

Judy Hushon, President of the Board of Directors Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation of Southwest Florida

Judy Hushon has a Ph.D. in environmental science and biochemistry. She spent the majority of her life fully engaged in her career and was unable to find time to actively support local charities. When Hushon moved to Naples 11 years ago, she decided to give back to the community by becoming involved in it and supporting the Bailliage de Naples of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the culinary arts. There, Hushon met Jeannette Boucher who founded Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation of Southwest Florida (CHEF) after seeing the need to help educate local aspiring chefs and hospitality management professionals who would not otherwise be able to afford the cost of their required educations. Hushon, now president of CHEF’s board of directors, agreed to accept the position if Boucher would continue as an adviser, which she has.

CHEF serves the culinary and hospitality arts professions by providing scholarships, awards, financial incentives and skills development opportunities to deserving individuals in Southwest Florida who are committed to furthering their education and enhancing their careers. CHEF has established scholarship programs with The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.; Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Fla.; and Florida Gulf Coast University. In addition to providing scholarships, CHEF recognizes the most outstanding culinary students in local high school culinary programs, provides apprentice opportunities at Bailliage events, and evaluates and help meets the needs of high school culinary programs.

1. If you could gather the community and tell them one thing about your charity, what would it be?

We are able to help qualified local students from Lee and Collier counties to obtain the training they need to undertake careers in culinary or hospitality related fields, and they are so appreciative. Most of them would not be able to attend college at all without a scholarship. We also provide assistance to local high school and vocational technical schools with culinary programs so they can obtain equipment and supplies they need or attend culinary competitions.

2. What is unique about having a charity in Southwest Florida?

Southwest Florida is extremely reliant on the hospitality industry, and in order to ensure a continuing supply of local workers in this industry, we need to help them get the necessary education. The Southwest Florida community is generous in its support of educational opportunities.

3. What surprises you the most about working with this charity?

What surprises me is the willingness of local businesses dependent on the hospitality industry to assist with supplying auction donation items and their interest in hiring graduates of the programs we are supporting.

4. Why did you choose to devote your time to this cause instead of others?

So many of our local charities focus on younger children, but older youth who have identified a career path need help as well to achieve their dreams. CHEF works to make these dreams a reality for approximately 25 students a year at FGCU’s Resort and Hospitality Management Program, Johnson & Wales North Miami and the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park.

5. How does working for your charity make you feel?

There is a lot of work since we have no paid staff, but it is when we talk with the students and they express their gratitude for our assistance that it all becomes worthwhile.

Want to get involved?

Community members can help support CHEF by attending the organization’s annual gala and fundraiser. This year’s gala and fundraiser, themed “Some Decanted Evening,” will be held in Naples at Club Mediterra on Monday, April 8. The event will feature entertainment by the Anna Smith Trio as well as a silent and live auction. For tickets, contact Judy Hushon at judyhushon@aol.com.

CHEF is actively looking for persons to serve on the board who recognize the important part CHEF plays in the lives of a number of local young people. CHEF is happy to have volunteers assist with obtaining auction items and in managing the auction at the gala and fundraiser.

To learn more about CHEF, visit www.chefswfl.org.

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