W Seattle Helps Art Institute Students Trace a Path to Success


Left to right: Tom Limberg (W Seattle General Manager), Tiffany Derry, Ernesto Fuentes (scholarship winner), Scott Carnz (AIS Dean of Academic Affairs), Sergio Santillanes (scholarship winner), Elden Monday (AIS President)

A unique culinary collaboration between Trace restaurant at W Seattle and The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle began paying financial dividends last night, as two AIS students netted scholarships totaling $5,000 to further their studies.

Following an essay competition that whittled the field to five students, Ernesto Fuentes won a “Black Box Competition” (a la Food Network’s Chopped program) and a $3,500 scholarship, while Sergio Santillanes was runner-up and recipient of a $1,500 scholarship. In his essay, Fuentes, formerly in the Navy serving as a cook on a submarine, cited the importance of teamwork in the kitchen. Clearly caring about his comrades at the school, upon receipt of the scholarship he immediately requested that the money be shared by the other competitors, as the GI Bill is funding his education.

The new collaboration between Trace and AIS is more than financial. W Seattle gives the students mentoring and internship opportunities beyond what was previously available at the school’s Portfolio restaurant. Both W Seattle and the students also benefit as successful education and exposure can open the door to an immediate job at the hotel after graduation.

Cheerleading the cause has been Tiffany Derry, a former Top Chef contestant (and winner of Fan Favorite) who happens to be a graduate of the Art Institute of Houston. Derry was part of the judging and implored the students to “take advantage of opportunities like this, which were not available when I was a student…I had to struggle and make my own opportunities.”


Derry worked with Trace chef Steven Ariel and AIS students to create last night’s “South Meets Pacific Northwest” celebratory dinner, with proceeds going toward the scholarship fund. One of my favorite dishes of the night: Surf and turf of scallop and pork jowl with salsa verde. And while I took a break and admittedly didn’t watch either season that Derry appeared on Top Chef, you can bet that I—and likely the AIS culinary students—will tune in this fall when Carrie Mashaney of Spinasse and soon-to-open Aragona competes on the show.

More from the meal (the following photos are courtesy of Suzi Pratt):

Photos by Suzi-Pratt.com

Hamachi with cucumber, apple, radishes, and nam pla prik

Photos by Suzi-Pratt.com

Heirloom tomato and grilled peach salad with mini prosciutto sandwich

Photos by Suzi-Pratt.com

Crispy sablefish with olive oil crushed potatoes, puttanesca, and rocket lettuce

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