Supporting young people in their dream to become a chef is the singular mission of a memorial foundation honoring Russell Ferber.
Ferber adored chocolate and loved warm brownies; he baked cakes for neighbors as a child and was an expert at making crème brûlée, eventually channeling his perfectionism into a career as a pastry chef. In 2002, just months shy of his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Ferber died in a car accident at the age of 21.
His family established the foundation to honor his memory and passion for cooking, which was sealed his third day in a kitchen. “He came home and he said, ‘I could spend the rest of my life in a kitchen. I love it,’” says his mother, Dorothy Jordon.
The Russell Ferber Foundation funds a scholarship through C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, a nonprofit program that helps underserved high school students pursue careers in the hospitality industry. The program, founded in 1991, operates in seven communities across the country.
The Ferber scholarship, awarded every other year, goes to a New York student and provides a full scholarship in the associate’s degree program in baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America, a cost of about $26,000 annually. This year’s scholarship will be awarded at a breakfast this month.
The scholarship is rewarding for the family, too. “Every time there is a conversation about culinary things that connects to C-CAP or the Culinary Institute of America, it brings up memories of Russell for us, which are wonderful,” says Russell’s father, David. “Now there’s these scholarships that bear his name.”
Adds his brother, Jordon, “It creates a way of telling Russell’s story that has a happy ending.”
Separately, the Russell Ferber Foundation is endowing a scholarship at the school and currently provides an annual stipend to a student. The foundation also provides funds to Village Community School in Manhattan’s West Village.
The family contributes personally, David is an attorney and Dorothy is a writer, and raises money through an annual comedy night and auction fund-raiser held in June. Jordon, a stand-up comic, lines up the comedy acts for the event and Dorothy and David reach out to friends in the hospitality industry for auction items.
Previous scholarship recipients have remained in touch and often contribute desserts for the event.