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Staples High Culinary Club Learns Lessons In Cooking, Giving Back

Susan Lloyd thanks the Westport Sunrise Rotary.
Susan Lloyd thanks the Westport Sunrise Rotary. Photo Credit: Hal Levy
Culinary Club members go to work at the Gillespie Center.
Culinary Club members go to work at the Gillespie Center. Photo Credit: Susan Lloyd
Culinary Club gets cooking at the Gillespie Center.
Culinary Club gets cooking at the Gillespie Center. Photo Credit: Susan Lloyd
The Culinary Club is from Staples High School,
The Culinary Club is from Staples High School, Photo Credit: Susan Lloyd

WESTPORT, Conn, — Sliced steak, oven-roasted potatoes, sautéed kale, a green salad and blueberry cobbler: It's an enjoyable meal for most of us. But it was a special treat prepared by the Culinary Club at Staples High School for the residents of the Gillespie Center, the homeless shelter in Westport.

Chef Cecily Gans and the club’s 10 members have fed Gillespie’s residents — and a few guests — on the first Friday of every month for the last four years. The club grew from the Culinary Arts classes that have produced graduates who have gone on to careers in the kitchen.

Susan Lloyd, president of the Westport Farmers Market Board, last Friday thanked Westport Sunrise Rotary for its support of this program, one it partially funds, and that club members participate in.

Feeding Gillespie residents teaches Culinary Club members two lessons: kitchen skills and that giving back is fun.

“The students enjoy the interaction with the Gillespie residents and the residents love the students,” Lloyd said.

The students and Chef Gans start by preparing their menu on the Thursday morning the day before the meal. Lloyd buys the ingredients at the Farmers Market on Thursday afternoon. She figures $8 to $10 for each of 30 diners. When her money runs out, the farmers help her to “just keep buying,” and assure that “the meals are all balanced and healthy.”

Gans and the students prepare the meal on Friday morning, take it to Gillespie in the afternoon. “When the residents find out it’s the Culinary Club, they tell their friends, and they’re all standing there in line at 5,” she said.

The students, Chef Gans and a couple of Rotarians serve the meal to some very appreciative diners.

The Farmers Market was started by Paul Newman and Chef Michel Nischan in 2006 to offer Westporters an opportunity to buy local, seasonal fresh foods directly from the producers.

The original 14 vendors have grown to 30, the market has moved from the Playhouse parking lot to 50 Imperial Ave., and what was once warm weather only market now moves to Gilbertie’s for the winter.

Sunrise Rotary also serves Gillespie’s residents on the first Saturday of each month and has turned the July dinner into a July 4th cookout.

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