Newspaper’s columnist nominated for congressional recognition

The Food and Living columnist for The Independent has been nominated to receive congressional recognition through the Association of Private Colleges.

Chef Renee Morgan, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, was selected as the college’s Texas nominee for the Graduate Recognition for Excellence, Achievement and Talent (GREAT). It is awarded by Congress to a nominee submitted by a private college.

Chef Renee has been writing for The Independent since summer 2011.

Mrs. Morgan  was able to overcome personal hardships to obtain an education and is using that education to help low-income families in Williamson County through Chefalicious Hospitality, a non-profit foundation that will open this spring.

In a letter nominating Mrs. Morgan for the award, Le Cordon Bleu President Steve Smith described her determination to overcome hardships and her contributions to the profession.

“The electricity was cut off in her 300-square-foot apartment, but Renee Morgan was not complaining. Her life actually was improving, despite the fact that she and her husband had both lost their businesses, their comfortable home, their cars, their life savings — everything when the economy went bad in 2008,” he wrote.

In searching for a new career choice, Renee’s husband encouraged her to pursue something she already loved – cooking, said Smith.  Three weeks later she was enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin.

“She had a goal and she was focused. She won scholarships from Les Dames d’Escoffier, Maple Leaf Farms, the National Restaurant Association, and the biggest of all – the highly competitive $15,000 Stephan Pyles Scholarship Cook-off from the Texas Wine and Food Foundation. Her winnings paid for her entire education. She was also the chair of the Eta Sigma Delta national honor society chapter at the school,” Smith said.

Mrs. Morgan, a mother and grandmother of four, said that while on her externship in Boston last year, she saw a sign on a train that offered a “free meal for anyone under 18.”

She knew there were families in Liberty Hill and Williamson County that lacked proper food for poor children when school was closed for the summer. So when she returned to Texas last summer, she went to work organizing a charity. A Leander church donated a kitchen, office space and a dining room. A local farm volunteered to donate vegetables. Local chefs volunteered to help raise money.

In 2012, “Chefalicious Hospitality” will open to serve hungry children in Williamson County. The organization will also help families build permanent skills to live a healthy life. The group plans to give grocery store tours and lessons on how to shop for cost-effective, nutritious foods.

Mrs. Morgan said the organization will also help families build gardens and show them how to grow, prepare and sustain fresh vegetables.

If selected to receive the award, Mrs. Morgan will be presented to Congress in Washington, D.C., on March 7.

“I am honored and humbled to have been even considered for nomination for this prestigious award,” said Mrs. Morgan.

If selected, Mrs. Morgan said she will use the opportunity to talk to members of Congress about the importance of “protecting and supporting local, organic, sustainable farms and foods in order to protect our own health and provide a future for our children.”