High school students cook meals for Spooner House

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky and chef and author Jacques Pépin joined culinary students at Emmett O’Brien Technical High School Dec. 11 to cook more than 90 meals for Spooner House, a Shelton nonprofit that provides emergency shelter, meals, and services to families in the Naugatuck Valley region.

“This is a great opportunity for the young chefs at O’Brien Tech to cook alongside a master chef and support the work that Spooner House is doing for families in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “Giving our students as much real-world experience as we can makes them strong competitors in the job market and bolsters the statewide economy. We are tremendously appreciative of Chef Pépin’s dedication to our community, and I thank the talented students at Emmett O’Brien Technical High School for all of their work.”

Emmett O’Brien Technical High School is one of Connecticut’s 20 technical schools overseen by the newly-established Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) board. As part of the bipartisan education reform bill, and with a $4 million dollar state investment, changes to the technical school system were implemented to ensure programming is better tailored to the needs of employers.

Curriculum, developed in conjunction with the Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Labor and business and industry consortium, offers students with up-to-date workforce training relevant to today’s job market.

“Today’s event underscores my long-standing commitment to Connecticut’s Vocational Technical High School System and the way it replenishes our workforce with knowledgeable, experienced students like those who cooked today alongside Gov. Malloy and Chef Pépin,” said State Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, Jr. (D-Woodbridge).

O’Brien is one of 16 Connecticut technical schools with culinary arts programs that participated this fall in the Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-Chef Week. Held each year in September, Farm-to-Chef Week celebrates the bounty of Connecticut agriculture at restaurants, cafeterias, and other dining venues with special menus featuring Connecticut Grown farm-fresh ingredients.

“The program at O’Brien is top notch, and I thank Governor Malloy for recognizing our program,” said State Rep. Linda M. Gentile (D-Ansonia, Derby) said. “Providing hands-on opportunities makes learning exciting and the students get to see an expert in their chosen field in action.”

Malloy, Reviczky, Pépin, and O’Brien Tech’s culinary students prepared three separate meals with ingredients from local farms — meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli; beef burritos with a vegetable medley; and spaghetti and meatballs with roasted butternut squash, salad, whole wheat baguette and apple tart made from Pépin’s mother’s recipe.

“It is exciting to see these young chefs learning about and working with products from our local farms,” Reviczky said. “They could find no finer mentor than Chef Pépin, who has been a frequent customer at Connecticut farmers’ markets and a supporter of the Farm-to-Chef program.”

The potatoes are from Gresczyk Farm in New Hartford, broccoli from Baggott Family Farm in East Windsor, butternut squash from Dondero Orchards in South Glastonbury and apples from Rogers Orchards in Southington. The ground beef was raised by Broad Brook Beef in Broad Brook.

Pépin, a Connecticut resident, holds faculty positions in Boston and New York and is an established author. He holds three of the French government’s highest honors. He is a Chevalier de L’Ordre National de la Legion d’ Honneur, Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Chevalier de L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole.

“Emmett O’Brien continues to provide a quality hands on education and allows their students to give back to the community with their craft,”  Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe said.

Spooner House, operated by Area Congregations Together, is a comprehensive emergency shelter and food bank serving more than 6,000 families across the Naugatuck Valley.

“We are grateful to Go. Malloy, Chef Pépin and the students, faculty and staff at Emmett O’Brien Technical High School for their generous support of Spooner House and those we serve,” said Susan Agamy, executive director of the Spooner House.