Cooking for Education

Mimi San Pedro and Mary Ann Coleman share their commitment to community and friendly culinary competition at ‘Diamond Chef Arkansas. Recut!’ as chairs of the Pulaski Technical College Foundation signature event.

By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves
Shot on location at “Joybird” | Makeup by Vanette Vititow of Barbara/Jean
Tops and Mary Ann’s jewelry provided by Barbara/Jean

These community-minded individuals love food almost as much as they love finding meaningful ways to engage with nonprofit organizations in Central Arkansas. Mimi San Pedro and Mary Ann Coleman are no strangers to the nonprofit scene. With their spunk and creative spirits, they have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of Arkansans and our community at large. Their enthusiasm for Pulaski Technical College comes from their hearts and will certainly leverage the friendly competition at “Diamond Chef Arkansas. Recut!” which will be a matchup not to be missed.

In 2012, after meeting Dr. Margaret Ellibee, then-new president of Pulaski Tech, and impressed with her vision for the college, Mimi and Mary Ann had an experience that anchored their support. “Our nephew had just turned 19, who, because of sensitive circumstances, had only completed fifth grade. Dr. Ellibee gave us the guidance to get him on the right education track,” Mimi says. “We enrolled him at Pulaski Tech’s Adult Education Center in Benton, and with the instructors’ help and our nephew’s dedication, he surprised us all – especially himself – by earning a GED in four months.”

It wasn’t hard to convince Mimi, digital marketing director for NLC Products, Inc., and Mary Ann, a retired University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences administrator, to co-chair Diamond Chef. “Dr. Ellibee and Shannon Boshears, executive director of Pulaski Technical College Foundation, simply asked us,” Mimi adds. Shannon says Mimi and Mary Ann are the “perfect” pair to chair this event. “The experience they each bring provides the expertise and passion we need to be successful. Their commitment to our mission is unwavering, as they are strong believers that education is key to empowering individuals to create better lives for themselves. In addition, if there was a local award given for most social media foodie posts, they would win hands down.”

This year Diamond Chef brings it “home” to Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute and all its amenities. “I love that we’ll showcase one of the most fabulous state-of-the-art culinary institutes and its talented instructors, students and staff members,” Mimi says. At the event, a mystery ingredient will be revealed just moments before a 60-minute competition begins. Chefs will have a fully stocked pantry and may bring two sous chefs to assist in the preparation.

The six chefs competing for the coveted Diamond Chef Arkansas title are Phillippe Ducrot, a faculty member at PTC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute; Donnie Ferneau, executive chef of the 1836 Club; Bonner Cameron, executive chef at Bistro Catering & Gourmet Take Away; Angela Nix, executive chef; Justin Patterson, executive chef at Southern Gourmasian; and Jason Knapp, executive chef of Sysco Arkansas.

This evening of fellowship and fun benefits the college’s programs and students. Shannon notes that the net proceeds of this year’s Diamond Chef will be matched by The Windgate Foundation to support Pulaski Tech’s new Center for Humanities and Arts, which opened in January.
Hosting the event on Pulaski Tech’s campus allows special opportunities for guests to experience the culinary institute. The Community Education Room will showcase a plating and knife demonstration, while the Hospitality Room will have towel origami and how-to-fold-a-fitted-sheet demonstrations. Other event specialties include The “Bon Appétit Bag Pull” – just like a wine pull, but prizes will include all things culinary.

Pulaski Tech introduces higher education to perspective students who otherwise may not be able or ready for a four-year college, notes Mimi, encouraging everyone to attend the deliciously fun event and support this important Central Arkansas institution. Attracting students to Pulaski Tech creates a stronger community, more advanced degree graduates and improves the economy with more available qualified workers, she says.


THE DISH on this Duo

Dining in or dining out? Both! We love food. I love to eat and Mary Ann loves to cook.
Favorite meal? We love everything!
Favorite go-to recipe? Leek lasagna and pasta cavolfiore

Inviting Arkansas

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