In the latest Around Town column, read about a Palo Alto student who topped the competition on "Chopped Junior," a new group that aims to help the city in its rail-redesign effort and new board leadership at the Vista Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired.
AVOIDING THE CHOP ... Charlotte Barclay, 11, of Palo Alto, entered the Food Network's "Chopped Junior" ring to compete against three of her peers and came out on top. The Duveneck Elementary School student was featured in a July 9 episode. For round one, the young chefs were challenged to create an appetizer that incorporated calamari, heirloom tomatoes, crumbled bacon and pickle-flavored cotton candy. Charlotte presented fried calamari with a tomato and bacon salad that came with a pickle reduction. She advanced to the second round, which had an even odder assortment of items: goat chops, lima beans, beet horseradish and a jar of Oreos. The 11-year-old served up a pan-seared goat chop with a warm lima bean salad. The dish was enough for her to proceed to the final challenge: a dessert comprised of Greek yogurt, blackberries, strawberry corn puffs and durian soda. Charlotte's mixed berry and durian tart with Greek yogurt ice cream won over the judging panel that picked her as the winner, a title that comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
THE PATH AHEAD ... The Palo Alto City Council may be on its summer break, but the city's plans for redesigning its four grade crossings continue to move ahead. And now, there's a new group charged with steering the process in the right direction, with the goal of getting all the plans hashed out by October. With a name that wouldn't seem out of place in the Marvel universe, XCAP includes former mayors Larry Klein and Judy Kleinberg, among others. The mission of the new Expanded Community Advisory Panel is to serve as a "sounding board" on the various grade-separation alternatives and to solicit perspectives from other residents and local stakeholders, City Manager Ed Shikada told the group at its inaugural meeting on June 19. Ideally, the group will arrive at a consensus on a preferred alternative, Shikada said. Over the past year, the city has winnowed down the menu of possible alternatives from more than 30 to six. It also has decided to consider the northernmost crossing, Palo Alto Avenue, as part of a broader plan for the entire downtown area. The City Council is also strongly considering placing a business tax on the November 2020 ballot, with at least some of the proceedings pegged to grade separation. Klein, a three-time mayor and a former fixture on the city's Rail Committee, suggested that the committee take on a third role: help the city secure the revenues it needs to implement the plans. "Since we're looking at a potential tax election, perhaps in November 2020, I think it's fair to say that the City Council will look to this group to be the main participants in getting that election passed," Klein said at the meeting. "Not necessarily passed," countered Kleinberg, who serves as president of the Chamber of Commerce. The group's next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.
A NEW LEVEL OF SUPPORT ... The Vista Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired has gone through several changes since 2017, including moving its headquarters back to El Camino Real in Palo Alto at the Mayfield Place development, bringing on a new executive director and merging with the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center. This month, the nonprofit announced its new board of directors Chair — Amy Andonian, president and CEO of Avenidas, a nonprofit serving Midpeninsula seniors. Andonian has been a board member since 2015 and will help the organization build out its services in the San Jose area as a result of the merger. "I am thrilled to begin my tenure as Chair of the Board, to prepare for and lead the celebration of Vista Center's 75th Anniversary in 2020. Collaborating with Vista Center's new CEO, Karae Lisle, to respond to the growing vision needs of our senior community, is a significant opportunity for both organizations," Andonian said in a July 11 press release.