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A Taste of Moscow, A Taste of Success

Our 27th Annual Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner is a Culinary Extravaganza – May 21, 2021

Each year, students in our Culinary Arts program look forward to the Annual Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner. Last year, we were excited to host the dinner in March of 2020, but it was just not possible due to COVID-19 and the state-imposed school closure.

At the beginning of this school year, with the ongoing pandemic, we did not know if it would be allowable or even possible to have the annual dinner in 2021. But our administrative team and instructors remained committed to exploring all options and finding a way to hold the dinner.

The experience in the planning and production of this gourmet dinner gives our students a taste of what skills are necessary for success in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. During the ongoing pandemic, that meant learning to follow industry standards and COVID-19 protocols. Through the process, our students and staff demonstrated their adaptability to making modifications that allowed for a smooth, safe, and highly professional presentation of our 27th Annual Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner at BVT on May 12th.

Culinary Arts Instructor Chef Williams explained that in an ordinary school year, our freshmen typically paired with our juniors see and hear what goes into the planning process. At the same time, our sophomores work with our seniors and become even more involved. So by the time our students have reached their senior year, they understand what is required and are fully prepared to organize a function of this magnitude.

From researching themes and planning a menu to plating and serving expertly prepared cuisine at the dinner, students elected to hold an executive dinner position are a fundamental part of the process. Once our seniors have narrowed the theme down to three finalists, presentations and a senior vote ultimately decide the final theme. In the end, a leadership team is nominated and elected to the executive dinner positions.

The executive positions include a food crew with a General Manager, two Executive Chefs, two Executive Pastry Chefs, and two Garde Managers responsible for cold food. In addition to a Beverage Manager, Sous Chef, Banquet Managers, Photographer/Social Media, Emcee, and Decorations Facilitators. This team works together to achieve the same goal, a successful dinner.

"Students elected to handle the food and menu immediately go to work researching ingredients, culture, and geography. We look for additional resources such as cookbooks and restaurants with similar menu items that we think we might want to serve. We might even go out for dinner at a restaurant to try food from our theme. We did not do that this year," said Chef Williams. "Our theme is often not something that we are familiar with or have ever tasted."

Our Culinary Arts students usually work with our Painting & Design students who design beautiful panels for the dining area but unfortunately, not this year. With so much uncertainty in August, it was not realistic to design panels for a dinner that may or may not happen. With many unknowns, the dinner was planned as a regular seven-course meal with ten stationary or passed hors d'oeuvres knowing that they could then scale back if the annual dinner were approved to happen.

“I am proud to work at a school that is willing to be flexible and not just cancel an important event,” said Chef Matthew Williams. “It would have been much easier to say that this would not work. But we are very fortunate to have administration and staff who successfully figured out how to make this happen by going to the health department with a proposal for approval.”

The food team tested recipes with limited time together in person, crossed them out, and then changed the plan when they found out the new guidelines. They settled on a five-course meal. “It is a lot of food,” said Chef Williams. “Guests cannot take something off a tray, but we can serve it to them. We planned to serve as much food as possible to show the work that our students did in the limited time and space they had to prepare, which is a real-world example of how we have to figure out things every day.”

"Typically, we have seventy volunteers," said Chef Williams. "This year, we had a reduced capacity, a specific time frame, and under one hundred guests. In a year that has been anything but ordinary, this dinner was an extraordinary experience for the twenty-five members of our Culinary Arts senior class who contributed to the success of the dinner."

"This annual tradition displays the diverse talents of our students and staff. Chef Williams and his team have a history of consistently creating impressive gourmet dinners that translate into new skill sets and portfolio entries for our students," said Superintendent Dr. Michal F. Fitzpatrick. "This year's culinary extravaganza addressed local Board of Health restrictions without sacrificing ambiance setting or other quality measures."


A Taste of Moscow, the 27th Annual Superintendents Dinner Menu  

Deconstructed Chicken Kiev
Crispy Chicken Strips with Garlic Herb Butter Sauce

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Tender Savoy Cabbage with Pork and Rice Filling

Potato and Onion Pierogi
Housemade Dough Filled with Caramelize Onions and Tender Potatoes

Crispy Potato Pancakes
Shredded Potatoes and Onions with Crème Fraiche and Chives

Herring Under a Fur Coat
Potatoes, Marinated Herring, Roasted Beets, Simmered Egg
Trinchero Family Estates, Avissi Prosecco

Wild Mushroom Consommé
Pearl Barley, Sliced Cremini, Micro Chervil

Smoked Salmon and Caviar Blini
Family Style with Traditional Garnishes
Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena 2019

Bone in Pork Loin Chop
Pork Apple Jus, Mini Potatoes with Dill and Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Crispy Parsnip Chip
Bocelli Family Wines, Toscano Sangiovese Rosso 2018

Twenty Layer Russian Honey Cake with Milk Caramel Whipped Cream Frosting, Orange Tuile, and Raspberry Coulis
Jackson-Triggs Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula 2019

Meet our 2021 Superintendents’ Executive Dinner Team:
General Manager, Jordan Kingsbury of Northbridge
Executive Chefs, Grace Arnold of Northbridge and Katy Cardarelli of Bellingham
Executive Pastry Chefs, Joe Tutela of Milford and Carrie Chase of Blackstone
Garde Managers, Mya Ackerman of Douglas and Evan Porciello of Mendon
Banquet Managers, Kylie Sellers of Mendon and Tesha Houston of Milford
Photographer/Social Media, Kayla Drew of Douglas
Emcee, Kat Kloczkowski of Uxbridge
Decorations Facilitators, Lizzie Pontzer of Mendon and Kirsten Dinsmore of Upton
Beverage Manager, Emma Cummings of Northbridge
Sous Chef (a junior), Nolan Holt of Upton

What does it take to hold an Executive Dinner position? Several of our students shared more:

General Manager Jordan Kingsbury of Northbridge
"I began working almost immediately with the executive food team and Instructor Williams. I put my organizational skills to good use, making a list with daily priorities, but it was challenging to get things checked off as COVID presented many unknowns. We had to plan, remain flexible, and anticipate that things could shift and need to be changed. When it came to the week of the dinner, I double-checked every detail and made sure that we had backups for anything we might need. We all worked so hard until it was over. I am so thankful my classmates and instructors put their trust in me. The dinner ended up being all that I dreamed of and more."

Decorations Facilitators Lizzie Pontzer of Mendon and Kirsten Dinsmore of Upton 
Transforming the Competition Center into a beautiful and elegant dining space isn't exactly the easiest thing to pull off. Yet, they managed to do just that by creating stunning centerpieces from PVC pipe and onion-shaped ornaments to replicate the Spires in Moscow. They said, "Due to all of the circumstances, it wasn't exactly what we planned, but we're proud of ourselves and the results. We spent a lot of time looking into Russian culture and getting a feel for the architecture. Our MT program made two beautiful chandeliers out of metal rings, which came out better than we imagined. We had fun brainstorming ideas and finding different alternatives if something didn't come out the way we wanted or planned."
Executive Chef Grace Arnold of Northbridge
"It was an honor to be elected by our classmates to serve as an Executive Chef," said Grace Arnold. "In this role, I worked closely with Katy Cardarelli to make sure everything went as planned. Putting together a menu with my classmates and seeing it all come together was truly fascinating. In the winter, the executive team took the time to test each dish we wanted to make and see which ones were worth keeping on the menu or not since there were limited courses allowed due to COVID. Once we knew what we wanted to serve and how to make it, it simplified the process. Overall this experience couldn't have gone better."

Executive Chef Katy Cardarelli of Bellingham
"As Executive Chefs, Grace and I had many responsibilities. We worked closely with our General Manager, our Garde Managers, and Pastry Chefs to develop the dishes and plate them. We joined Zoom meetings at least once, sometimes twice a week, every week, and attended "in-person" meetings during our lunch block while we were in school. We had to research the area where our dinner was "taking place" and figure out how to make their culture fit ours. The days we were in shop, we tested dishes until we were both happy with the results."

Executive Pastry Chef Joe Tutela of Milford
"The annual dinner was an intense labor of love and nine months of work from brainstorming concepts to preparation and execution. From the beginning, as a Culinary Arts team, we decided to plan for a typical full-fledged dinner knowing that it most likely would have to be shortened due to COVID. As Executive Pastry Chefs, Carrie and I had to develop, test, and execute three different kinds of bread and a plated dessert. We created recipes for Paska (a Russian Easter Bread) which stems from my great-great-grandmother's Czechoslovakian recipe, Pampushky (a Ukrainian Garlic Bread), and poppy seed Kulichi (a flaky crescent roll filled with poppy seeds). In the end, the Kulichi never made it due to the need to shrink the size of the dinner. Each recipe took months to perfect and dozens of attempts until they were what we envisioned.”

The crowning achievement of the dinner was the 20-layer Marlenka spiced honey cake. The plated dessert was comprised of a slice of the cake, filled with a caramelized cream and burnt honey mouse, topped with a crisp orange lace cookie, fresh raspberry, and a baby mint leaf, and serve with a tart raspberry sauce. Each layer of the cake had to be baked perfectly in thin layers to avoid burning and cut precisely to provide clean lines. All while ensuring the stability of the cake was never compromised. The results were amazing. Seeing the joy on people's faces because of the hard work of all the Culinary Arts Senior Class truly made it all worthwhile.”

“I am grateful to have taken part in the Superintendent's dinner, and the lessons of leadership, planning, management, and baking will stay with me as I continue my journey into the world of Pastry Arts at Johnson and Wales come fall.

Executive Pastry Chef Carrie Chase of Blackstone
“I want to emphasize how much testing and experimenting went into the dinner on our part. It took us from January until just before the dinner itself to perfect our dishes. The Pampushky (Ukrainian Garlic Bread) took us the longest to perfect, and after countless recipes and failed experiments, we found one that complimented the wild mushroom consumè delightfully. I agree with Joe in that the highlight of our work was the Russian Honey Cake. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to do something with honey cake, but it took time to really develop an idea, and the recipe itself did not have much to tweak, but the real challenge was playing with the plating. At one point, we had so many plates in the bakeshop, each one, a different design of how we envisioned our finished product. We tried everything from how the cake and sauce would be arranged to placing the lace cookie on the top, even debating if we should add a mint leaf to the top to compliment the raspberry and so many other variables. The final product turned out even more beautiful than we imagined. It was a difficult task, but working together made it so much more manageable for us both. I am very proud of what we created.”

Emcee, Kat Kloczkowski of Uxbridge
"Essentially, the day of the dinner, I had drafted descriptions for each course and tried my best to describe the flavors and textures. At the dinner, I introduced Dr. Fitzpatrick and introduced the entree right after Mr. Steele spoke. Anything else was improvised!"

Photographer/Social Media, Kayla Drew of Douglas
“I captured special moments throughout the day with my fellow shop classmates. My role was to take unique pictures of the food items being prepped, made, and served throughout the dinner and the students. My favorite food item was the honey cake. I think it captured people's attention because it was so big and there were so many layers to it.”

Garde Managers, Mya Ackerman of Douglas
"Being Garde Manager was a great experience! Our executive team would meet periodically and research themes, food styles, and ingredients regarding our Russian theme, 'A Taste of Moscow', in the months before the dinner. In one meeting, we discussed the variety of courses we had researched, and many of us came back with the dish "herring under a fur coat." This dish was something none of us has had heard of before. It is a layered salad, displaying a colorful array with herring, Yukon gold potatoes, bright red beets, and a hardboiled egg on top. As Garde Managers, Evan and I were tasked with the salad course, and we knew this was a dish we wanted to try and perfect to allow a new element of variation to our menu. Overall, being chosen as Garde Manager was an eye-opening experience to the different cultures and styles of food around the world and my abilities as a chef and collaborator on our executive team. We worked together so well throughout this past year of planning, and we were able to create a fantastic night for the guests who attended the dinner.”

Sous Chef Nolan Holt of Upton
“I was responsible for helping to prepare and plate food to be served. I made herring under a fur coat. As a sous chef, I gained insight into the leadership positions and how the dinner operates.”