A Yum-o! Event with Bill Clinton
When the guest of honor for a special event is President Bill Clinton, you might be surprised to find teenage cooks running the kitchen. But Rachael scoured the country to find just the right group of young people to help her open Cafe Una Notte, a one-night-only restaurant and the first annual fundraiser for her Yum-o! organization, which helps feed the hungry, offers scholarships for culinary students, and educates families about healthy eating. She's given five aspiring teenage cooks the daunting task -- and once-in-a-lifetime experience -- of creating an original menu for 70 high-profile guests including Larry King, Joy Behar, Katie Lee Joel, and legendary singer Carly Simon.
Sound intimidating? Not for these young cooks, who are already quite comfortable in the kitchen. The group of five include a pastry chef with her own wedding cake business, an aspiring restaurant owner, and a guy who decided to teach cooking classes to kids after seeing how it can benefit them. "My younger brother has certain emotional problems that he was born with and so cooking opens him up to me a little bit more," says 18-year-old Brett from Decatur, Ga. "It's just the ultimate experience to share with somebody."
Another one of the teens, Rhiannon, 17, from Granville, N.Y., found her passion for food while trying to change her life. "When I was younger I was the fat girl in junior high and I got picked on a lot and it was kind of traumatizing," she explains. "Cooking has helped me with that because I learned how to eat healthier and slim down." She aspires to teach cooking, and is thrilled to take part in this special evening with Rachael.
After the teens meet up in New York City, they immediately get started on their big meal with some help from Iron Chef Michael Simon. They plan the menu for Cafe Una Notte to include a crab parfait, lamb meatballs and ricotta and truffle ravioli. As the pressure kicks in with just a few hours until dinnertime, the group gets a surprise addition when Rachael brings President Clinton into the kitchen for some introductions.
"I almost blacked out when he walked up to me," Brett admits. "He really said some things that really hit me right in my heart. To have somebody of his stature just care about you and give you the time of day is unbelievable."
For Clinton, the evening is also a special one as the teens represent precisely what his Alliance for a Healthier Generation is all about in fighting childhood obesity. "You guys in a way are leading a huge counter-cultural movement that can save your whole generation," he tells the teens as they beam with pride.
"To hear President Clinton say I'm a role model?" says Rhiannon, "It's just mind blowing."
Clinton and the rest of the guests return the praises as the teens' gourmet meal is served, and the delicious dishes are followed by a sparkling performance by Carly Simon. To top it all off, Rachael awards each of the young chefs a $10,000 scholarship for their first year of college, and the crowd joins in with the generosity by helping to raise $200,000 during an auction for Yum-o! "It's just beautiful," says Rachael, while thanking the crowd. "I don't know how we could ever top it."
And her young chefs certainly share that sentiment. "Tonight really meant the world to me," Rhiannon says. "It was really special, something I probably won't be able to do ever again in my whole life."
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