HEIDELBERG, Germany -- In December 2010, Angelee Aurillo left her business, Amuse Bouche Catering, behind in Vail, Colo., for a long overdue European vacation, the first holiday season she had not worked in 12 years.

Traveling to England, Scotland, the Czech Republic, Rome and others with her boyfriend, the New Orleans native became smitten with Heidelberg.

American tourists can stay in Germany up to three months without a visa. As that time was drawing to a close, the couple decided they wanted more time overseas. Aurillo returned to Vail, packed her things, notified her clients and came back to Heidelberg.

Aurillo sought a part-time job that would allow her to travel. An acquaintance suggested she apply with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation as a barista at the Java Café on Patrick Henry Village.

Aurillo turns in her barista apron today and swaps it for a chef's coat and hat: she is the new director of catering and executive chef at the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion in Heidelberg, which was formally catered by a local German contractor.

The catering staff includes five waiters, three cooks and a few people who help set up for each event.

"I loved the Java Café, but I needed to go back to cooking. I was being drawn back. My heart wanted to stay here, but I didn't think it was possible. And all of a sudden, this great opportunity arose. It was perfect timing, a win-win situation. They were looking for someone, and I wanted to stay and cook," Aurillo said.

The Pavilion is getting a facelift this month, with new lobby furniture, a reception area for Army Community Service, WiFi, a coffee shop and more, said FMWR director Berry Patrick.

But more than that, the Pavilion will become a central community center during the next year and a half, before U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg begins the closure process. The garrison is currently slated for closure in fall 2013.

"We're going to go out with a bang, and we're going to have fun doing it. We're going to be the best we can be until the end," Patrick said.

Patrick envisions the Pavilion will house more special events than in years past, ranging from ballroom dancing classes to military balls to the charity auctions.

Patrick is leaning on his staff, including project manager Ingrid Osewalt and her hard-working team.

The creativity reins are what Patrick is handing to Aurillo, who plans to host events open to all community members, such as murder-mystery dinners, comedians, a fork-free night, a father-daughter dance, brunches and ballroom dancing.

"Our effort is to elevate the quality of food and service and leave a great lasting impression on the community.

We're confident that these last couple of years will be the best we've ever had. I think that's everyone's goal," Aurillo said, adding she truly believes in team effort.

"It's all hands on deck, really. We have a short window to make it amazing, and we need people who are willing to jump in with both feet to make it happen.

Everyone is putting in all this time and effort to revamp the Pavilion. That's how I know we have the right team," Aurillo said.

As executive chef, Aurillo wants to use her classical French training as a member of the last class to graduate from Johnson and Wales University's Vail campus as a basis for dishes that are far beyond typical event cuisine.

"For me, cooking is not just something you throw together. It takes forethought and time, and I think that's part of it.

You cook to exchange, to make people feel good, and it's a way for me to demonstrate how I care for people," Aurillo said, adding she often hosted dinner parties while in college.

Fusion cooking -- or combining various forms of cooking -- is also one of her many specialties, perhaps brought on by her impressive résumé: Aurillo studied French, Anthropology and Spanish at the University of Montana-Missoula, worked in the Restaurant Hubertus in the Hotel Rosa Alpina (a Michelin-starred restaurant) in San Cassiano, Italy, and worked Vail's off-season at Hôtel les Camélias in Bagnoles de l'Orne, France.

"With fusion, you can really take a little from a lot. Take chicken. Every culture around the world cooks chicken. Luckily with my travels, I've been able to tase these different cuisines first-hand, which makes recreating food easy because it becomes a part of you. It's not just what you read about in a cookbook."

Aurillo said she uses organic food when available, and that she really believes people are what they eat, in a way.

"I really like organic farming and the lifestyle, and I like the idea of farmer's markets and sustainable products.

This whole [Pavilion] concept is new, and we are just running with it. I can cook anything, but why not make it memorable and really something you don't eat every day, or something that might change the way you eat and look at food?" she asked.

Aurillo will have one of her first opportunities at the new Pavilion 7 p.m. March 9 when the Heidelberg Community and Spouses' Club sponsors the European Treasures Auction, with proceeds going to welfare grants and scholarships.

Aurillo plans to include two chocolate fondue stations, hors d'"uvres from around Europe and chicken mole with coriander and orange.

Aurillo said she cannot express how much it means for her to be in the community, and how it's embraced her in such a short amount of time.

Patrick had heard of her enthusiasm and vast experience through the grapevine, and Aurillo said her new position could not have come at a better time.

"It's an honor to serve this community, and as something that's new for me, it's been a great experience.

I've met some truly great people, and I can't wait to help make the Pavilion a hub again, a center of Heidelberg again."