Tie off, apron on: Superintendent takes over school kitchen
CORNWALL — Addison Central Supervisory District Superintendent Peter Burrows is most commonly seen attired in a snappy suit, crunching numbers in his office or peering in on classrooms to see if ACSD educational programs are paying dividends.
On Thursday, Burrows eschewed his smartphone for a spatula and his suit for blue jeans and an apron, as he carefully moved 10 pounds of burger across a flat-top grill at the Bingham Memorial School in Cornwall.
No, Burrows had not been demoted to mess hall duties.
You see, his varied responsibilities include filling vacant positions throughout the ACSD, and he hasn’t had much luck yet recruiting a new food service director for the Cornwall elementary school. So rather than farming the work out to a substitute, Burrows rolled up his sleeves and decided he would pinch hit as chef for “taco Thursday” in Cornwall.
His sous chef was none other than his oldest son, Zachariah, a 7th-grader at Middlebury Union Middle School who already knows his way around a kitchen.
“The kitchen is the heart of the school and I thought this would be a great way to connect with the kids,” Burrows said as he surveyed a silent lunchroom area that would soon be reverberating with the animated voices of more than 50 hungry students.
“I love to cook,” he said.
Turns out Burrows is quite the galloping gourmet. His career in education has included multi-year stints in both Japan and Spain. He not only sampled the local cuisine in those countries, he took notes and routinely recreates such dishes as paella, noodle bowls and sushi at home.
“I cook everything,” he said, adding tacos were “not too much of a stretch.”
He and Zachariah whipped up a big bowl of coleslaw and some brown rice to go along with the Mexican main course. And they were pleased to note the vast majority of the ingredients were sourced from area farms and from the school’s own backyard, which has delivered copious amounts of black beans, garlic, beets, onions, winter squash, greens, popcorn and other crops.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of former food service Director Lauren Honican, the Cornwall School has a productive vegetable garden and fruitful relationships with the Elmer Farm in Middlebury, Lewis Creek Farms in Starksboro and Windfall Orchards in Cornwall. The burger for the tacos came from just a few miles away, at Meeting Place Pastures in Cornwall.
“Every month our (school) menu says where the local food comes from,” said Principal Jen Kravitz.
It was Kravitz who jokingly suggested to Burrows that he fill in at the kitchen. She was surprised and delighted when he accepted.
“I was not going to turn that down,” Kravitz said of Burrows’ offer. “It was excellent timing.”
Zachariah’s culinary forte is baking, but he was happy to help his dad put together the taco dinner.
BINGHAM MEMORIAL SCHOOL students Linc Bonner, far right, True Fetterolf and Lia Calzini line up to be served lunch by fellow students Layne Chant, Lochlan Baumann and Lily Finn along with Superintendent Peter Burrows last week. Burrows was at the Cornwall School to make lunch for the children.
“It’s fun,” he said, a young man of few words. Zachariah likes to share his love of baking through his blog, at zachariahnburrows.blogspot.com.
For ACSD students who missed the superintendent’s tacos in Cornwall on Thursday, don’t worry. Burrows said he will, before the end of this year, cook a lunch at all of the district’s schools. So he’ll soon be whipping up grub at Middlebury Union middle and high schools, as well as at the elementary schools in Bridport, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Weybridge and at Mary Hogan Elementary in Middlebury.
Burrows hopes the students get more than just a smile or chuckle out of seeing him spooning beans or noodles onto their plates. He wants the students to be mindful of what they are putting into their bodies. For the past two years, he has picked a day or two to bike to all ACSD schools as a way to promote health and fitness.
“It is important to think about what you’re eating, and being healthy,” Burrows said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].