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Twenty-year Colton teacher Mindi Shelton takes her culinary expertise to the restaurant business with Loco Ono food cart

COURTESY PHOTO: MINDI SHELTON - Mindi Shelton's culinary career has moved from teacher to business owner in Silverton.Mindi Shelton taught within the Colton School District for 20 years, starting at the middle school level where she taught math and language arts and coached basketball and volleyball.

Her last 16 years with the district were at the high school, where she taught consumer economics, freshman focus, strength and conditioning, health, child development, leadership and culinary arts. She also was assistant varsity softball coach with the teams that went to state in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and was athletic director for four years.

Shelton not only taught culinary arts, but inspired students to compete in the ProStart and SkillsUSA programs where they surprised a lot of teams from bigger schools with chef mentors by placing in the top five in the culinary competitions.

Shelton was named ProStart's Oregon Culinary Arts teacher of the year two times, in 2011 and 2015. I had the privilege of going to one of the pre-competition run through of the menu items.

My "job" was food tasting. I was very impressed with the perfection of the complicated and multiple course meal, as well as the plating and presentation.

Over the years, her culinary students were inspired to try new food options, to research nutrition and to learn the enjoyment of cooking, not just for competition but as a life skill and always for the enjoyment of cooking.

"It was always about the kids," Shelton said. "I loved teaching leadership and watching the students learn about giving back to community, both town and school, and learning to create and work collaboratively."

In culinary arts, Pam Irving and Elena Linfesty went on to compete at nationals. Linfesty, who not only earned many scholarships for her culinary skills, has gone on to do product development in a gluten-free bakery and is looking to open her own bakery in the near future.

So is Mindi retiring? From teaching, yes, but she and her husband, Mark, have opened a food cart, Loco Ono BBQ and Catering, in Silverton. It is located at the Silver Falls Brewery, 207 Jersey Street, and the reviews are, of course, stellar. Check out their Facebook page for more information and menu options.

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