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South Whidbey grad scoops up culinary memorial scholarship
The Natanya Johnson Scholarship Fund has named Jessica VanWetter as the recipient of the 2013 Red Spatula Award.
VanWetter, a 2010 graduate of South Whidbey High School and Clinton resident, said she felt incredible after receiving the award on Sept. 12 from board members of the scholarship fund.
“It’s just a great honor,” VanWetter said. “It’s not just a scholarship, it’s carrying on the work for someone when they can’t do it.”
The award was created to remember Natanya Johnson, a pastry chef at Prima Bistro. Johnson passed away in 2011 from juvenile diabetes. The foundation was created as a way for a young woman in South Whidbey to go to culinary school. The foundation began raising funds in July 2012 for the scholarship.
Gretchen Cole, co-founder of the scholarship fund, said VanWetter is incredibly dedicated to the pursuit of her dreams.
Cole said the group wanted to support a woman pursuing a dream in the culinary arts and also to empower women in the kitchen.
“It’s become a man’s domain and it takes a tough person to do it. We wanted to enable women to do it like Natanya did, and Jessica gets it. It’s now her dream too,” she said.
VanWetter is in her second and final year at Skagit Valley College in Mt. Vernon studying culinary arts and hospitality management. Once she completes the program, VanWetter wants to pursue a baking degree and become certified in pastry arts. VanWetter hopes to one day open her own bakery. She said with this scholarship she will be able to further pursue her dreams.
VanWetter was awarded the amount to finish her schooling, up to $12,000.
Cole said there is no question VanWetter will pursue great things with her drive and motivation.
“Love is her main ingredient in food and anything she engages in otherwise. She’s unstoppable, she’s incredibly talented,” Cole said. “Nothing is standing in her way.”
“We are really honored to have her, we’re the lucky ones,” Cole said. “Nothing beats getting to support someone in pursuit of their dream — I highly recommend it.”