DECATUR — Miranda Curry has never been to Asia before, but this June, she and nine other students in the Culinary Arts Institute at Richland Community College will get the opportunity to experience a new culture and cuisine during an 11-day trip to China.

“It’s amazing,” said the first-year student of the upcoming educational trip, noting that as soon as she heard about it, she was anxious to sign up. “We’re going to get to work in a kitchen and help make and try authentic Chinese food. It’s really exciting.”

“It’s going to be a great experience for the students,” agreed Chef Brian Tucker, director of the Culinary Arts Institute, who will accompany the students on the trip. “We did this trip for the first time a little over two years ago, and this year, we’re partnering with Yew Chung Community College in China,” which will allow Richland students and Yew Chung students to interact through hospitality classes.

While the trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the students, it will also be costly, acknowledged Tucker.

“The trip will cost about $3,500 per student,” he said.

In light of the expense, students have been inspired to pursue some creative culinary fundraising methods this semester including a tasty pastry named in honor of Doug Brauer, Richland’s vice president of economic development and innovative workforce solutions, and his love of Kellogg’s Pop Tarts.

“I’ve always had an affinity for Pop Tarts,” said Brauer, noting he would often grab one for breakfast or lunch, “so a few years ago, as a way to add levity to convocations, I started making videos where I would go around and ask people questions to engage the faculty and staff, and after getting their input, I’d give them a Pop Tart.”

Brauer said the awarding of Pop Tarts steadily became a tradition.

“I started handing them out to kids in Discovery Theatre and it really became a staple, so this semester, I suggested that the culinary arts students use my Pop Tart obsession and create a line they could sell in the Richland Coffee House to help raise money for their trip.”

These aren’t your ordinary toaster pastries, however. The homemade treat, dubbed the “Brauer Pop-Tart,” is made of pie dough and filled with various fruit fillings including raspberry, cherry, apple, lemon and blueberry. Students make them every few days, allowing the pastries to stay fresh and the various flavors to change, and at around $1.50 each, the treats are selling well.

“We’ve made over 200 already, and we can’t make enough,” Curry, 20, said. “They’re flying out of the coffeehouse.”

“They have been more successful than I ever imagined they’d be,” said Tucker, noting that as of Jan. 30, the coffeehouse had sold 250 of them. “It’s a fun way to raise money and a good way to get the whole college involved.”

In addition to the pop-tarts fundraiser, the Culinary Arts Institute is also planning to host a Chinese-themed five-course dinner fundraiser on Friday, April 12.

“This is the first time we’ve done this,” Tucker said of the Chinese dinner. “We did something similar for Chef Ryan Rogiers when he was wanting to raise money to run in a marathon (benefiting Alzheimer’s research) and it was such a success that we decided we wanted to do a Chinese New Year dinner to help raise money for our China trip.”

“We started talking about something like this (the fundraiser dinner) last fall to help take some of the cost burden of the China trip off the students,” said Rogiers, “and I think it will be great. It will allow the public to enjoy a good meal and will help us raise some money at the same time. It’s a win-win.”

Tickets cost $40 a person. To reserve a spot, contact Linda Hays at 875-7211, ext. 740.

“The fundraising efforts of the students to support their trip to China allows for the incorporation of a global perspective into their curriculum,” said Richland President Gayle Saunders. “At the same time, (the trip) will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Curry said she can’t wait to travel abroad.

“This trip will absolutely help me be a better chef,” she said. “It will broaden my horizons and help me learn about a new culture, and it will be my first touch of international cuisine. I’m kind of a picky eater, so I think the trip will really help me try things I didn’t think I’d like. I’m excited.”

Second-year culinary student Mike Crawley, 23, of Macon, agreed.

“I’m really excited to experience the food and culture (of China) first-hand,” he said.|421-7963

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