By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Culinary Students Find Safe Haven In Community
Spending a little time in Escalon recently, evacuating from their culinary school in St. Helena, were, from left, Sabrina Ruttenbur, Carter Barbini, Jade Grisby, Sienna Best and Bitty Verzin. In right at back is Debbie Murken, Siennas grandmother and host mom for the group during their stay in the area. Marg Jackson/The Times

Several students at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena found themselves in the thick of the Northern California firestorm earlier this month … needing to evacuate in a hurry.

One of those impacted just happened to have a safe haven for herself and several friends, heading to Escalon to stay with her grandparents, Walt and Debbie Murken.

“We had three culinary students, three baking and pastry students,” Debbie said, with five of the six attending the Thursday night freshman football game at EHS with her.

Second year student Sienna Best, granddaughter of the Murkens, said they were told to evacuate quickly when the fires broke out near Napa. She was able to secure the emergency lodging in Escalon, bringing several of her friends with her.

The students represented a cross section of the country, including Sabrina Ruttenbur of Tennessee, Carter Barbini from Arizona, Jade Grisby of Colorado, who has also lived in the Bay Area, Bitty Verzin of Southern California and Kelsey Hessler of Colorado. All but Hessler attended the football game on Thursday night, eager to focus their attention on something other than the fires.

“They’re holding up pretty well,” Debbie noted.

It was a relatively short term stay in the community, as they were allowed to return to the Napa region on Monday, with classes anticipated to start up again on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Debbie said the students did do a little cooking and baking while they were in town and fixed a special dinner for the Murken family on Saturday night to show their appreciation.

“Overall, they’re in pretty good spirits,” Debbie said.