Prepared with care

Alan von der Mehden

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Alan von der Mehden rarely can be found sitting still. In addition to teaching more than 100 students each year as a full-time culinary instructor at Las Plumas High School, he also provides students with soft-skill learning opportunities through the campus’ Las Plumas Catering program. On top of that, von der Mehden is the executive chef and owner of Del Sol Elite Catering and Hospitality—where, separate from his school duties, he often hires students to give them paid job experience. He told the CN&R his aim is to give young people “an opportunity to see a very viable trade,” and at the very least, “know how to cook for themselves.” When he isn’t teaching or cooking, von der Mehden travels, coaches the high school’s volleyball team, works on other projects (like repurposing furniture into home theater speakers) and fishes in Oregon, where he also has a home. To inquire about a catering gig, call 520-0898 or email

Tell me about your catering business.

With [Del Sol], I hire my students to do the actual work—back of the house, front of the house. I usually do all of the [cooking], plating and everything like that. Everything is attention to detail, seasoning, every part of everything—I made baked beans last weekend, and people were like, “I’ve never had baked beans with mushrooms and vegetables in it.” And I’m like, “That’s how I get my students to eat them, so you got them.” And they’re like, “It was great!” [With Las Plumas Catering], we’ve done five or six weddings with students … and they’re like, “I didn’t have any idea the food was going to be this fantastic, and the service.” The kids rise to the occasion.

Tell me more about your work at Las Plumas High.

[I teach] five periods of culinary. We plate on every level, but in [my advanced class] they get more sophisticated, and then they’re the ones that help me with catering. The first thing we do is safety and sanitation, then we do knife skills, and then we go into things like soups, salads, breads, then desserts, and then we get into meats. Then we’ll go into barbecue and then we’ll go into stews or slow cooker stuff. It’s a full-on culinary experience for the kids. And every one of my students gets a California Food Handlers certificate.

What do you enjoy about catering?

I know that I cook well, and I just love to see how people react to the food. Like contractors, caterers [are known for being] kind of flaky. [But] we’ll be there on time, we’ll have enough food, we’ll never run out. It’s one of those things that I pride myself on, making sure that your event is the way you want it. I want the catering job to be what the client wants.