Ferndale graduate now acclaimed chef in New Orleans


News that Blaine Wetzel, head chef at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, was named one of the top young chefs in America for 2014 by the James Beard Foundation, resulted in a call from Connie Oliver about her son, who has also been acclaimed as a chef.

Connie, along with husband Ken, now lives in Ione, Wash., but their son Tory McPhail is a 1990s-era graduate of Ferndale High School. Tory has been the executive chef at the original Commander's Palace in New Orleans since 2002. Its website gives a glimpse of Tory's accomplishments: "Under his leadership, Southern Living named Commander's the Best Splurge Restaurant in the South, and it has reigned as Zagat's most popular restaurant for close to two decades. McPhail also won the 2009 Great American Seafood Cookoff and has been instrumental in honors from the James Beard Foundation, the Culinary Institute of America, Wine Spectator, and Gambit."

Tory's Twitter account also mentions he was the winner of the 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef. You can follow him at @torymcphail.


Linda Short reports on an April high school music competition in Ellensburg: We are so proud to announce Bellingham High School musicians scored the highest ever! These students compete against every musician in the state whether they attend a B or AAAA school so their victories are even sweeter. Maya Enstad and Hannie McGarity took third place in state for small string ensembles. Rosamund Dyer took third place for mezzo sopranos. Lucy Evans took second place for altos. And Luke Robinson took first place for basses! While we were there, we also picked up our plaque for first place scholastic achievement for all choirs in AA.


From Deb Hall, executive director of Dogs On Call, said two registered therapy dogs from Whatcom County visited Darrington Elementary School April 7 to hopefully help students and staff "on their healing journey in the wake of the Oso mudslide tragedy."

Bellingham resident Pat Holmes and her registered therapy dog, Henry, and Lynden resident Chris Monroe and her registered crisis response/therapy dog, Pongo, joined other members of Anacortes-based Dogs On Call, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization of registered therapy dog teams.

"This was the second such visit to Darrington Schools by Dogs On Call teams, the first being on March 27 (in which Chris and Pongo also participated), just days after the mudslide occurred. Even a few minutes spent with a wagging-tailed furry friend can provide relief and respite from the stress of dealing with such a tragedy, especially an on-going one."

For more information about Dogs On Call online go to DogsOnCall.wix.com/DogsOnCall.


Lynden resident Celeste Mergens shared that she has been named 2014 American Mother of the Year for Washington state. Here's what she wrote:

"There are so many phenomenal mothers who make a difference every day. It is humbling to receive this unexpected opportunity to represent the mothers of Washington state. Being a mother is the most rewarding and difficult job there is. None of us can be perfect at it, and we moms are sometimes hard on ourselves, and yet it is our everyday influence in families that can literally make all the difference in the world. Our children are the future."

She is "the founder and Director of Days for Girls International, a nonprofit that gives women and girls dignity, health and opportunity by ensuring they have access to sustainable hygiene. This issue turns out to be one of the keys to reversing cycles of poverty and violence against women. The award-winning organization, recently featured in Oprah's O Magazine, has reached 70 nations on six continents."

She is a Soroptimist Ruby Award winner, a Rotarian with Bellingham Bay Rotary and a World Food Prize invitee. "Of all of the opportunities that I have had, there is none greater than that of being a mother. It is the greatest joy in my life," she wrote.

Here's more on the organization that honored her: "American Mothers is committed to valuing mothers through service and education since 1935. The official sponsor of Mother's Day, American Mothers continues the legacy of celebrating motherhood. Each year American Mothers honors motherhood by naming the National Mother of the Year. As an non-government organization centered at the United Nations and leader of the Global Motherhood Coalition, American Mothers organizes high level meetings focused on addressing global struggles for mothers and families for positive change.

"Honoring the mission of founders Sara Delano Roosevelt, Maimie Eisenhower, JC Penny, and Norman Vincent Peale, American Mothers continues to highlight the importance and value of motherhood in strengthening communities and our nation. Honorees are nominated and vetted for selection. Nomination Forms for 2015 will be available after Mother's Day. For more information visit AmericanMothers.org.


-- Whatcom Educational Credit Union made $42,775 in donations to local community-oriented and nonprofit organizations in April, according to a press release. Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn, Rebound of Whatcom County, Womencare, Ferndale School District and the Behind the Badge Foundation were among the organizations who received donations.

-- The Whatcom Dream raised $35,000 at its annual auction fundraiser April 12 at the Lakeway Inn in Bellingham. Keith Wallace of Rice Insurance was the emcee and Mike Kent was auctioneer. The Whatcom Dream's mission is to lower the poverty rate in Whatcom County. For information go online to thewhatcomdream.org.

-- Wylie Lane Suda, a Mount Baker High School student from Deming, has been awarded a full study-abroad scholarship to Brazil with AFS Intercultural Programs through the BP Global Citizens of Tomorrow Program, a program that gives high-achieving students the opportunity to attend high school abroad and gain intercultural skills needed to succeed in a global economy.


Teacher Andy Bishop of Bellingham and his fourth graders have made a YouTube video about the power of kindness. You can watch the video at this YouTube link.

-- Kiwanis member Veronica Vincent of Ferndale has a GoFundMe page to raise funds to eliminate maternal/neonatal tetanus, a cause of Kiwanis International. She's running in her first marathon Sept. 28 in Bellingham. She says: "There are 25 countries still struggling with this disease and for $1.80 (pairing with UNICEF) we can vaccinate one mother and this will prevent her and all of her future children from contracting eliminate maternal /neonatal tetanus. Please donate what you can; my goal is to raise $10,000, which is $381.67 per mile of my marathon, which translates to 212 vaccinations per mile. I know my goal is large but really every $1.80 counts!" Her fundraising link is at gofundme.com/VVsMarathon-for-ELIMINATE.

Out and About is published Mondays in The Bellingham Herald. Reach Executive Editor Julie Shirley at julie.shirley@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2261.

Reach Executive Editor Julie Shirley at 360-715-2261 or julie.shirley@bellinghamherald.com .

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