Special dinner

I ate one of the best dinners I’ve ever had in Chico last Thursday—and it was prepared by brand-new chefs. The Butte Culinary Academy held its “practical final” last week, and I was among the fortunate few invited to partake in, and grade, a five-course meal.I was seated at the table of Al Tibbs, who prepared a menu that included a delicious chilled cherry soup, sautéed duck liver canapé with candied rhubarb, pork tenderloin stuffed with smoked gouda and shiitake mushrooms and, for dessert, apricot scones and lemon curd.

Micheal Iles, the academy’s chef/instructor, wandered the kitchen and Chico State’s Selvester’s by the Creek café beaming with pride. The students had each put in more than 1,000 hours of study during the past seven and one-half months in a 15-student program that’s supported by the Butte County Private Industry Council and the Regional Occupational Program in an attempt to prepare people of all types for careers in the food and beverage industry.

“We have some great students who have some really wonderful jobs,” Iles said. “If you have a love for it, it comes real easy.”

That night, the students had to cook from memory—no recipes allowed. The guests’ scores counted for half the grade, while professional chefs weighed in for the other half. The scholars also have to take a written final and create, on the computer, a mythical restaurant.

I was no delicate nibbler. I ate everything except the tentacles in the spicy calamari salad. My tablemates, from a meat company in Redding, were amazed, and as I sampled some extra desserts from other tables, one commented: “You did a really good job of putting that away.”

Puppy party

In honor of the News & Review’s dog issue, I asked intern Erin Froke to see what’s up with a Web site that helps pets get new homes. Her report follows:

Finding homes for pets in shelters is more complicated than one might imagine. But since the founding of, more and more animals have found homes. Just recently, the Chico Boxer Rescue and the Oroville-based Shonees Sanctuary, both of which match animals with prospective owners, were added to the list of shelters and rescue groups on the site. Butte Humane Society is already a member.

The site, which is widely known and backed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), generates thousands of hits a day. has pages of pictures of animals, with information on each one. To look for a pet, all you have to do is type in a specific animal, breed and the area you live in, and any matches found appear on the screen.

The Web site also has articles on everything from animal behavior and care to the horror stories of animal cruelty. Shonees Sanctuary has received lots of calls and had a pretty good response, while Chico Boxer Rescue has not received any inquiries on its dogs yet.

“We’ve had a lot of hits on our dogs but no questionnaires have been filled out yet,” said Tracy Hon of Chico Boxer Rescue.