On Thursday morning, Martha’s Vineyard Regional high school juniors Nichole Wilson and Matt Davies cleaned heaps of local garlic shoots in the culinary arts classroom in preparation for A Spring Garden Feast on Saturday night. Nearby Dakota Fogg removed the meat from local littlenecks that had been smoked, while chef and culinary arts teacher Jack O’Malley looked on.
Kyle Stobie peeled cucumber after cucumber.
These were just a few of the 30 culinary arts students prepping for the benefit dinner for the high school’s garden.
Under the supervision of Chef O’Malley and a local guest chef, students create a locally-sourced dinner twice a year, tickets for which sell out quickly. Funds raised at the events become “seed money, both literally and figuratively,” for the high school’s garden and its supplies, said Island Grown Schools coordinator Kaila Allen-Posin. The garden is comprised of 14 raised beds, 15 fruit trees and berry bushes.
This week Kevin Crowell, Detente and Sweet Life Cafe owner and chef, worked with the class to help create a five-course dinner to be prepared and served on Saturday night at the Sweet Life in Oak Bluffs. It is the first time the fundraiser will be held off-site.
“Every fall and spring I reach out to different chefs to see if they’d be interested in partnering and Kevin said ‘yes, and how about we do it a little bit differently? Would you be interested in having the students come to the restaurant?’” said Ms. Allen-Posin. “It just added more enthusiasm for the students.”
About 10 students will staff the event, working in both the front and back of the house, depending on their interest. With two seatings, students will see how a full night of service works at a restaurant. Students in the art department became involved as well, creating 100 ceramic pots in which the food will be served and then given away as take home gifts for the dinner guests.
The dinner will feature local squid and skate wing from Menemsha Fish House, turkey and sausage from the Farm Institute, vegetables from Thimble and North Tabor farms, yogurt from Mermaid Farm, chocolate from Not Your Sugar Mamas and salt from MV Sea Salt.
“We don’t get an opportunity to use a lot of local food because it comes at a premium,” said Chef O’Malley. “So ordinarily students aren’t using locally grown organic onions because we’re teaching them how to cook.”
As Chef Crowell worked alongside the students on Thursday, he made suggestions and pointed out some of the benefits of seeing how much preparation goes into creating a dinner.
“They have been picking young garlic shoots for two hours here,” he said. “It takes a lot of work to get to a finished product... I think it’s good for them to see how much work goes into it.”
Dakota Fogg agreed.
“I enjoy cooking something and seeing the finished product. It’s a lot of fun, plus the experience that you get working with chefs all over the Island.”
Dakota hopes to work in a restaurant in the future. But for now, there were more littlenecks to prepare.
Limited tickets are still available at Cronig’s or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.