At least once a year, you can find an amazing Island chef teaming up with the Culinary Arts and Ceramic Arts Departments at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for an unforgettable farm-to-table dinner, which happens to be a fundraiser for Island Grown Schools.
This year, Dan Sauer from 7a Foods was this dinner’s professional chef. If you ate at the Outermost Inn long ago (before 2010) or more recently, Dan’s own 7a Foods in West Tisbury, you know he is gifted in the kitchen.
A Chef Who Cares
Dan was at one of the founding members of the Island Grown Initiative, the parent of Island Grown Schools. He was inspired by the idea of creating as much locally sourced food, both meat and veggies, as possible. Add in Island Grown Schools, teaching our children the importance of eating local, and the fact that Dan and his wife, Wenonah, have kids in the school system now, and he was thrilled to be a part of this event again (he’s done it four times).
Since he’s been involved with this fundraiser, he is always amazed at how each year, more and more locally grown ingredients are available. Long ago, there was some chicken, and a couple of tubers this time of year. Now there is so much to choose from
Pho or “fuh,” Dan says it doesn’t matter, like tomato, tomato. He likes to say Pho because it’s easier and sounds better. I too subscribe to this thought. Why Pho for this year’s event? For Dan it was easy.
Pho is a delicious dish he frequently made when he was the chef at the Outermost Inn, and Kelsey Head (high school coordinator) from Island Grown Schools suggested it, a favorite of hers. Also, it is a great way to highlight beautiful meats and veggies, which there were a plenty for this dinner.
For a couple of days before the fundraiser, Dan is in the kitchen at the high school working with the 14 kids from Culinary Arts. It takes time to prep when serving over 60 people.
Working along side the kids is really fun for Dan. Seeing things through young eyes brings new perspective to things. Plus, they’re really learning from him, his technique, his breadth of knowledge about food and the kitchen. It’s a great relationship.
Making A Difference
When you talk to Jack O’Malley, MVRHS, Culinary Arts teacher, this event is truly special for all who are involved.
To have a local, successful chef in the kitchen working with kids hands-on, seeing the talent first-hand is a big deal. The kids love watching and learning from the chef. It’s an important interaction for kids who are serious about this possible career. Also, a number of job offers for high school students have come from such interactions.
In addition, working with the local farms for the meat and produce is an experience too. It lets the kids learn about what’s available seasonally and how to be creative with these ingredients.
All of this is made possible with the help of Island Grown Schools. This organization works so hard to help the Island’s children eat well and just as importantly, know about their food — where it’s from, how it’s grown. Education starts in pre-school and continues through high school. How lucky are these kids and us parents! That’s why supporting IGS is so important!
Guests were seated in the Culinary Arts dining room. It was fun to be eating at school at night. There were big tables and you could sit wherever you wanted.
I was lucky enough to have my friend Anna Cotton there along side of me. Across the way was Lindsey Scott and her husband Josh from Beetlebung Farm. They also brought their kiddos, which I thought was pretty cool. There were also a number of other amazing people surrounding us, including chef Michael Brisson from l’etoile and his fabulous wife Nicole. Michael is an IGS dinner veteran. He was a chef at a previous dinner.
The group was diverse and everyone was clearly excited for this amazing dinner that awaited us!
The first course was a beautiful Thai Shredded Salad, piled high with fresh greens and fresh shredded chicken. This was a light, healthy, flavorful way to start our dining experience.
We all dove in and had seconds of this green masterpiece.
Then came the Pho, a Vietnamese style soup, which is made with fish sauce, rice broth noodles, and meat that is both cooked and raw (the hot broth cooks the rare meat). The soup is served with a plate of aromatics, including Thai basil, mint, cilantro, lime, and hot peppers, all locally sourced.
For the meat, Dan and the Culinary Arts team, used pigs feet, bones, and chuck steak, all locally sourced. Pho is a great way to use up meat scraps. For the raw meat, a beautiful flank steak was used.
I almost forgot to mention. The Pho was served in handmade pottered bowls by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High Sschool Ceramic Arts class. Fifteen kids made over 60 stunning, unique bowls for the event which guests could take home. Not only were you eating locally sourced food but even your bowl was locally made.
The Pho was delicious, light and flavorful. Each guest customized their Pho with greens. For me, I added lime, Thai basil and mint. It melded together beautifully to create a delicious bowl of Pho.
Sharing with the table your creation, and seeing what they used was a lot of fun. Some people were brave and ate the hot peppers from the aromatics plate. They were called Mouse Trap peppers (no idea why) and were super hot. Too hot for me to try. Dan also brought along some of his own hot sauce, which was more flavorful, and offered nice heat, instead of painful hot.
It was a real community event, an inspiring event. To know that so many high schoolers worked so hard to make the meal possible, made every little bit special. To know that a talented, busy Island chef gave days of time to be a role model and work with kids, was amazing and added to the experience.
Anytime Island Grown Schools has a fundraiser, especially one that involves food, go! Each event is special and will surprise you. There is so much good that this organization does for our whole community.
This year’s dinner was $25 per person, an amazing deal for the food, the experience, and you got a new pottery piece out of the deal. When next year’s comes around, buy your tickets early, because it always sells out.
Thank you Island Grown Schools for making such an impact on the lives of Island children!
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