Culinary students assist those in need
Thanksgiving food prep kept kitchens busy for a good cause
With less than a week before the Thanksgiving holiday, students in the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services culinary program were momentarily able to catch their breath. They had just spent several weeks prepping, cooking and packaging meals to be distributed to local families by Caritas of Port Chester, a foodbank that operates the Meals on Main Street program in that community.
“Over the past three weeks, we have prepared approximately 200 trays of food for them to distribute to the over 1,000 families they will be feeding,” Chef and teacher John Damiani said.
The students were kept busy preparing:
- 200 servings of venison stew
- 200 servings of venison chili
- 25 trays of vegetable and sausage stuffing (made from donated bread)
- 25 trays of cornbread
- 200 servings of roasted potatoes
- 250 servings of pan-roasted salmon
- 400 servings of turkey
- 3 gallons of turkey gravy
The food was provided to the culinary program by Caritas, which collects donated food and needs assistance in preparing it to be distributed. Students prepared the food and froze it. Caritas of Port Chester will finish cooking the food before they deliver it to those in need on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
“The students understood the cause, worked very hard and did an amazing job,” Chef Damiani said. “I was very proud of them all.”
“The students are a real help to us,” said Bill Cusano, Caritas of Port Chester Director. “The work they do is first-rate and the trays of food help us reach more homes and individuals than we could on our own.”
Mr. Cusano explained that his organization collects donations of perishable food in quantities greater than they can process. “It is a huge help to be able to bring some to BOCES and have the students use it to prepare trays of food we can freeze and use later,” he said. “The end result is food doesn’t get wasted.”
Mr. Cusano continued to say that Chefs John [Damiani] and Pete [Tomaskovic], along with their entire staff and students, are a joy to work with.
“Our decision to start this partnership in 2018 sure paid off this year with the pandemic,” he said. “Because we had developed a method of operating together, we were able to implement a similar program with local restaurants and caterers during the months the school was closed to us. Collaboration makes so much sense. We look forward too much more in the coming months.”
The students were not able to rest for long after preparing the Thanksgiving meals. Their attention quickly turned to making homemade pies for the holiday.
As part of a Culinary annual tradition students baked just over 100 pies to sell as a fundraiser. The number is a bit lower than other years due to COVID, however, Chef Damiani said he was still pleased with the output.