The Convention Centers staff consists of locals. While the Centers only employ a modest number of permanent staff, we have hundreds of trusted servers, conversions crew and others to assist when needed. Many of us have active interests outside of work, volunteering or otherwise being involved in our local community.
Our Ongoing Commitment
The Centers regularly provide considerable food donations to local charities and shelters that help the homeless, abused women in need and other disadvantaged groups. Rather than discard unused meals or extra ingredients that are no longer needed but still safe for consumption, the Kitchen will contact local organizations such as the AWAIC Shelter, Bean’s Café, Rescue Mission and the Childrens Mission for fast and safe pickup and distribution. Our means and overages are modest but we try: for example, when the AWAIC Shelter Kitchen burned down, the Centers stepped in and delivered hot meals in our Hot Boxes to help out while their kitchen was restored back into service.
On a smaller scale, we are involved in our local community in ways ranging from providing box lunches to the Mountain View Spring Clean-up team and providing desserts to the Anchorage Youth Court Gavel Games to (former military) staff getting involved in the Anchorage Chamber’s Military Committee and Military Appreciation week.
We’re locals helping locals and tend to do so on the quiet, not making a big issue of what one should do anyway: not just ‘taking’ as a basic resident but ‘giving’ as a member of a community.
SMG’s Chef Devin Levine, at UAA Celebrity Chef Invitational
For 39 years, the Lucy Cuddy Center on the University of Alaska, Anchorage campus has provided excellent instruction in basic and advanced culinary training. This program has the reputation of being one of the premier culinary arts programs in the nation. This year’s 19th annual Celebrity Chef Invitational raised over $100,000 for scholarships, lab/instructional equipment. Previous CCI fund raising efforts have paid for much needed items such as bread proofing ovens, gas ranges, commercial mixers and much needed supplies. SMG, the firm contracted by the Municipality of Anchorage to manage the daily operations at the Anchorage Convention Center was awarded the honor of providing the 2011 Celebrity Chef. Executive Chef Devin Levine from the BOK Center, an SMG managed arena and convention center complex in Tulsa Oklahoma, one of the largest in the mid-west, was selected as this year’s Celebrity Chef.
Previous to working for SMG, Chef Levine was the Executive Chef at Southern Hills Country Club. Chef Levine was one of the first graduates of the American Culinary Federation Educational Institute, became a Certified Executive Chef in 1990; serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Tulsa Chapter of the ACF and is also on the Oklahoma Restaurant Association Board of Directors. While at Southern Hills, Devin was the Executive Chef for 14 major golf tournaments, including five Masters Tournaments in Augusta.
Working with local Anchorage Chefs, local business leaders, UAA’s extraordinary instructors and students of the program, Chef Levine produced a very unique five-course menu that included a selection of innovative appetizers and delicacies such as Foie Gras “Panna Cotta”, a crispy Duck and Wild Mushroom “Strudel”, an almost indescribably tender Braised Short Rib paired with Pancetta wrapped Alaskan Sea Scallop. For dessert an insanely delicious Chocolate-Truffle Torte paired with Fromage-Blanc Brulee. All courses were served with wonderful accompaniments including wines and the plate garnish was truly artful.
Chef Devine Levine was quite appreciative of the opportunity to come to Alaska and especially to work with the instructors and students at UAA. His comments were; “You can tell the students are passionate about food, serving food that is memorable. The training received here is second to none; the detailed, hands-on instruction is producing graduates that will go on to brilliant careers in food service and the hospitality industry.” Chef Levine was awarded a memento of his experience, a CCI Chef Coat signed by the staff, the students, local chefs and representatives from the numerous local businesses that support this valuable culinary arts program at the Cuddy Center. SMG was proud to play role in this most prestigious fundraiser and will continue further support by hiring graduates from the program to work at the Anchorage Convention Centers!
A prime example of commitment to community is our Executive Sous-Chef, Peter Fontanez. For years, Peter has been sharing his expertise and enthusiasm with local high school culinary students, as described in a recent newsletter:
Chef Peter Gets Chugiak Students Cooking
Cooking is fun as well as serious business. ProStart is a nationwide program sanctioned by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Their ProStart Invitational Competition offers culinary encouragement – and some serious scholarships. High school students in a Culinary Arts program using the ProStart curriculum can enroll in the Invitational as teams, via their school.
For several years now, Dena’ina Center Executive Sous-Chef Peter Fontanez has volunteered his time mentoring a Chugiak High ProStart Team. He has been teaching at Chugiak and had the Team come down to Dena’ina for some excellent hands-on experience. This year’s Team – consisting of Justin Carr, Sierra Carr, Travis Compton and Jessica Eelbode, plus alternate Calvin James – helped him serve over 2,000 Iditarod racers in March. In addition, Peter trained them for the Competition in Dena’ina’s spectacular new kitchen, preparing a challenging three course menu in less than 60 minutes.
Chef Peter’s and the Team’s efforts paid off handsomely this year when the Team won second place at the Alaska ProStart Competition on April 3rd. The students were awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships and in good sportsmanship wished the winners of East High success representing Alaska at the Nationals in Kansas.
On May 12th, the Anchorage Education Association honored Chef Peter with the “Friends of Education Award” for his diligent and tireless work supporting culinary education in Alaska.
The Anchorage Convention Centers are proud to have Peter Fontanez and his true spirit of community involvement on board. Congrats Chef Peter!
Congratulations, Chugiak ProStart Team!