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Students at Waterside School get a side of etiquette with lunch

Senior Chef Manager Kristen Jelormine incorporates manners and culture into mealtime at the K-5 school.
waterside mac and cheese
Photo courtesy of CulinArt

The mission at Waterside School in Stamford, Conn., is to provide “a rigorous academic and moral education regardless of income or circumstance.”

Although lunchtime offers a break from classroom lessons, Senior Chef Manager Kristen Jelormine and her team use the time to teach about food and manners and develop a sense of responsibility in students of the independent non-profit school.

Students come into the dining hall at designated times, take their seats and participate in a blessing. Jelormine and staff member Ingrid Moore artfully arrange the food on large platters and the teachers serve the food. The children eat on real plates with real silverware, with napkins placed on their laps.

"We give them an idea of what the presentation would be like at a fancy wedding or catered event," says Jelormine, who also has a teaching degree. "And we teach them the etiquette of dining as if they were in a restaurant." 

When finished, students clear their place settings into the bus bin and help clean up. Jelormine says the kids are brutally honest but grateful too, often telling her, “Chef Kristen, thank you for making my lunch today.”

The children are not the only ones who appreciate the upgraded presentation—the school's executive director and staff love it, too. 

The 140 students at the K-5 school trace their backgrounds to 37 countries, making lunchtime an opportunity to learn about culture and diversity through food. In May, the foodservice staff celebrated Jewish-American heritage and Cinco de Mayo.

For the former, the children got chocolate babka for snack, complete with a printed description and background of the baked treat. Tacos and homemade guacamole were on the menu for Cinco de Mayo. Avocados were the superfood of the month in May, and Jelormine introduced them through the guac with crudite as dippers. (The raw vegetable sticks are menued as "crudite.")

“The cultural melting pot is what makes this account unique and is the perfect climate for our diversity mantra,” says CulinArt dietitian Stephanie Dorfman. She visited Waterside School to promote Stop Food Waste Day in April, shortly after CulinArt took over management of the school's dining services at the end of March.

Jelormine joined Waterside as a float chef last fall and will continue in her permanent role for the next school year. In August, she hopes to plant one or two edible crops in the school's garden and team-teach a unit with the science teacher.

"We'll incorporate the vegetables into the lunch menu," she says. "It makes for a more interactive educational environment."

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