A Taste of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day
Our 28th Annual Superintendent’s Gourmet Dinner is a Culinary Delight – March 31, 2022
Irish eyes were smiling at our Ireland-themed 28th Annual Superintendent’s Gourmet Dinner held on St. Patrick’s Day at Blackstone Valley Tech. There were many smiles and a lot to celebrate.
For students in our Culinary Arts program, the Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner is a culmination of months of planning, preparation, and production that gives our students a taste of the skills needed for success in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. Each year, we celebrate the quality of career and technical education with a lavish reception and an elaborate gourmet dinner. This fine-dining experience is the school's largest fundraiser.
The first course of the evening was a delicate and creamy potato and leek soup which was made with house-made chicken stock, topped with crispy fried shallots, snipped chives, and a drizzle of herb oil. An Irish salad was the fifth course served. Influenced by seasonally available ingredients, a blend of arugula and baby spinach tossed with Gala apples, pickled red onion, goat cheese, and tarragon vinaigrette topped with beautiful slices of vibrant red and golden beet for a splash of color. After the deconstructed Irish stew, the final course was an apple cake. The tender and flavorful cake complimented by a Baileys burnt caramel sauce, apple chutney, and house-made vanilla custard ice cream was a sweet ending to a perfect meal.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick said, “The pageantry, preparation, and presentation by our students and staff within this event are simply remarkable.”
From researching themes and planning a menu to plating and serving expertly prepared cuisine, 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 Superintendent's Gourmet Dinner was established to support technology advancement at the school and, through the years, many initiatives benefiting student learning. Since 1995, we've held our annual Gourmet Dinner to raise awareness of vocational-technical education by showcasing the skills of the shops involved. Each year, during the first few weeks of the school year, our Culinary Arts seniors complete a rigorous selection process that consists in nominating and voting on a theme for the dinner. Subsequently, the menu and decorations are all based on the selected theme.
We've produced dinners with a wide variety of themes, from "The New Millennium" in 2000 to "A White House State Dinner" in 2009, and across the United States from Las Vegas to Hollywood and New England to Hawaii. Around the globe, we've gone from China to the Roman Empire, and France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Moscow, and this year we enjoyed Ireland.
Over the years, the themed dinners have included events such as a "Kentucky-Derby" meal in 2017, which brought the "greatest two minutes in sports" to life by celebrating the food and culture surrounding the nation's longest continuously held sporting event with a menu of authentic southern fare. In 2015, we celebrated the food and culture of the 1920s with a dazzling Gatsby-themed dinner, worthy of approval from the Great Gatsby himself.
The gourmet meals were expertly prepared by our Culinary Arts seniors, plated, and served against magnificent backdrops through collaboration with other departments and shops. And just like every class before, our students strive to make this year's dinner the best Superintendents Gourmet Dinner ever. We have to admit that our students and staff have continued to do just that.
While a large group of students and staff contributes to the success of each dinner, key personnel make up the Executive Board in Culinary Arts. 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.
A Taste of Ireland, the 28th Annual Superintendent’s Dinner Menu
Potato and Leek Soup
Crunchy shallots, herb oil, snipped chives
Dill scallion butter, shaved fennel slaw, crispy brussels sprouts
Candied citrus peel, strawberries, fresh mint
House Cured Streaky Bacon
Colcannon, warm parsley sauce
Red and Golden Beets
Arugula, spinach, goat cheese, apples, pickled red onion, tarragon vinaigrette
Deconstructed Irish stew
Irish whiskey braised short rib, boiled new potatoes, honey glazed carrots, and parsnips, celery root puree
Vanilla custard ice cream, Bailey’s burnt caramel sauce, apple chutney
Meet our 2022 Superintendents’ Executive Dinner Team:
General Manager, Samantha Stephens of Mendon
Executive Chefs, Natalie Lambert of Millville and Nolan Holt of Uxbridge
Banquet Managers, Makala McQueston of Blackstone and Sofia Yitts of Grafton
Emcees, Amanda Wallace of Sutton and Ansha Khan of Northbridge
Beverage Manager, Colin Buckley of Bellingham
Decorations Facilitators, Katelyn Barrows of Northbridge and Erin Morrissey of Douglas
Executive Pastry Chefs, Emily Warner of Uxbridge and Alex Mach of Uxbridge
Garde Mangers, Darlene Johnson of Northbridge, and Kymber Morin of Douglas
Photographer/Social Media, Allison French of Northbridge
Sous Chefs (juniors), Leyla Hudson of Northbridge and Makayla Dunton of Sutton
Pastry Sous Chef (junior), Naomi Tsuda of Mendon
What does it take to hold an Executive Dinner position? Several of our students shared more:
General Manager, Samantha Stephens of Mendon
"It was an honor to be nominated and voted into the General Manager position by my peers. The General Manager has many responsibilities and is in charge of the front and back of the house, which means running back and forth from the kitchen to the dining space for the main event. For the back of the house, I spent a lot of time with our Executive Chefs and Garde Mangers, planning and testing the menu. While working in the front of the house, I helped with decorations, serving, and delegating tasks. Overall, I was responsible for communicating to all the culinary staff and students what was happening and how we would execute an outstanding dinner, which can be stressful because everyone looks to you for answers. However, the whole process was an exciting experience, resulting in a magnificent dinner."
Executive Chef, Natalie Lambert of Millville
"As Executive Chefs, Nolan Holt and I worked for months with other members of our dinner team to create the final menu. From researching ingredients used in Ireland to testing and modifying recipes until we were satisfied with the results for each course. Both Nolan and I served as Sous Chefs for last year's dinner, which helped us with logistics and knowing how everything should run. Being prepared, it was a calm night without much stress."
Executive Chef, Nolan Holt of Uxbridge
"Natalie and I worked for months researching ingredients, putting together the menu, and testing dishes until we were pleased with the results. Having worked as Sous Chefs last year, we were ready to be Executive Chefs this year."
Banquet Manager, Sofia Yitts of Grafton
"As banquet managers, Makala McQueston and I were in charge of everything at the front of the house. We oversaw the dining room and managed how many trays servers needed to serve each table depending on the number of seated guests. In addition, we collaborated with the Decorations Facilitators to design a cohesive Ireland theme within the budget and included other seniors during related classes to help us with decorations and minor details to prepare our banquet space."
Banquet Manager, Makala McQueston of Blackstone
"We all worked so hard on making this dinner perfect since the first day of school, and I'm so proud of the turnout and how well everything came into place."
Emcee, Amanda Wallace of Sutton
"I teamed up to serve as an emcee with my friend Ansha Khan, and we worked together with Chef Williams to write a description of each course, and we practiced a few times. We enjoyed presenting the dishes and contributing to the dinner's success."
Garde Manger, Kymber Morin of Douglas
"As Garde Managers, Darlene Johnson and I were in charge of all the cold food and how to serve it during the reception and plated during the dinner:
• We made charcuterie boards with Irish cheeses, beer cheese, and crackers. I cut red and gold potatoes, cucumbers, and lemons for one of the boards and shingled them.
• We prepared the cured salmon with accompaniments. We also ran an action station serving black pudding, white pudding, bangers, chicken liver pate, crostini, orange marmalade, raspberry jam, fresh fruit, and curry chips.
• We handled the raw bar station with oyster and littleneck clams during the reception.
• We made the red and golden beet salad and the blackberry sorbet for dinner. One of the more challenging aspects was cutting the apples right before the salad was served so they wouldn't brown and preparing the sorbet in the freezer so it wouldn't melt.
Being a Garde Manger was an incredible experience, and I loved it."
Garde Manger, Darlene Johnson of Northbridge
"In this role, I worked closely with Kymber Morin to make sure all the cold food dishes were properly prepared, set up, and plated proportionally. It was an honor to hold this position, and it was a rewarding opportunity that I will never forget."
Decorations Facilitator, Katelyn Barrows of Northbridge
"Erin Morrissey and I were responsible for transforming the Competition Center into a beautiful and elegant dining space. We chose a white, gold, and green color scheme, which incorporated the chandeliers, centerpieces, and hoop decorations hung around the room. In addition, we made sure that the front-of-the-house uniforms were ironed and ready for service and that the napkin folds, cutlery, glasses, and lighting were perfect. Producing this dinner is a huge accomplishment, and I am proud of what we put together, and I can't imagine it going any other way."
Sous Chef (junior), Leyla Hudson of Northbridge
"Makayla Dunton and I were responsible for the raw bar during the reception and for plating a few of the courses. It took a lot of work learning how to open oysters and clams properly. As a junior, being a sous chef allowed us to experience what a gourmet dinner entails and prepares us for next year. It was a great experience and a good learning opportunity for us. The evening went by so quickly, but everything ran smoothly."
Sous Chef (junior), Makayla Dunton of Sutton
"I worked with my fellow Sous Chef, Leyla Hudson. I helped chop apples for the salad and plated many courses. The raw bar took most of our time and effort, though. On the day of the event, I worked with others in our shop to peel and chop vegetables, and Leyla hardboiled the eggs used in one of the courses. We were also responsible for working with the seniors to put the kitchen back together after dinner. Above all, this was a group effort, and none of us could have done it alone or without the help of other grade levels of culinary students."
Executive Pastry Chef, Emily Warner of Uxbridge
"There was a lot of trial and error in deciding what type of bread to serve. As Executive Pastry Chefs, Alex Mach and I worked with other seniors to discuss variables such as, "how large shall the loaves be?" "how are we tying the rolls?" and "how much soda bread is too much soda bread?" Finally, we decided to serve Irish Brown Bread, Garlic Celtic Knot Rolls, and Irish Soda Bread. Next, we determined how they would be plated and served. The night of the dinner, Alex and I prepared and plated the apple cake. It was fun, and it all went surprisingly smoothly."
Pastry Sous Chef (junior), Naomi Tsuda of Mendon
"As the Pastry Sous Chef, my primary responsibility was to learn more about the bakeshop procedures and how to make the bread (soda bread, brown malt bread) and the dessert (apple cake) by working with the Executive Pastry Chefs, who were excellent mentors. I learned a lot from them while experiencing the excitement and intensity of the Superintendents' Dinner. I had fun helping plate the bread and dessert and meeting some of the sophomores. This experience has given me the confidence to take on a more executive role next year as a senior."