CulinArt rolls into Rhode Island’s Wheeler School
PROVIDENCE, R.I., August 31, 2022—The Wheeler School has partnered with CulinArt Group to provide dining services for its 800-plus students in four schools (preschool through grade 12). Facilities comprise The Purple Cow Café and The Lion’s Den Market, with Victoria “Torri” Hieber leading the CulinArt staff as director of dining services. The opening is one of 10 in the independent school market for CulinArt this fall, including three in New England (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine).
[left to right in photo above: Dorothy Vallee, Chef Kate Nealis, Bertrand Caruthers, Louise Brochu, JC Mobriant, Director Torri Hieber]
Hieber joins CulinArt from Mitchell College, in New London, Conn., where she was director of dining services. Before that she served as associate director of food and nutrition at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, in Elk Grove Village, Ill., and also ran catering for corporate and sports events, including a private party for the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks. Here, Hieber shares more information about what’s in store for one of CulinArt’s newest clients and its students.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR WHEELER SCHOOL COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR NEW DINING EXPERIENCE?
HIEBER: We strive to provide a perfect balance of quality, taste, and nutrition with our chef-created menus, locally sourced ingredients, and assistance of registered dietitians. School-aged kids have a more diverse palate than ever before, and we aim to deliver their favorite dishes along with future favorites. Our weekly menus will be posted on the Wheeler website for all to see, as well as in the cafe.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE CULINART TEAM AT WHEELER?
HIEBER: My role as director of dining services is to lead the amazing team, execute flawless events, and bring a high-quality dining program to Wheeler. I have brought on Chef Kate Nealis, who has more than 20 years of experience in restaurants and the foodservice industry, most recently as the owner of the successful food truck, Noble Knots. Kate’s passion is in sustainable food, locally sourced ingredients, and educating others on an attainable healthy lifestyle. Rounding out the team are more cooks from a range of backgrounds and other foodservice professionals who will serve and assist students daily.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS AND SUSTAINABILITY ARE CENTRAL TO THE CULINART APPROACH. HOW WILL THE DAILY MENU OFFERINGS REFLECT THESE IMPORTANT AREAS?
HIEBER: Our daily menus will consist of multiple stations meant to nourish students and keep them focused in class with offerings like chicken parmigiana and rosemary turkey, empanadas, street tacos, ramen bowls, and other popular dishes. For these dishes, we source our produce locally and work with companies that are actively reducing waste. Speaking of waste, we have a program entitled “Waste Not” in which we measure our waste daily. This program helps us recognize our habits and make a lasting impact for our future.
WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR?
HIEBER: I am personally looking forward to making an impact in the day-to-day lives of everyone that eats here. No matter what their food preferences are, I want everyone to genuinely enjoy the food they are choosing to eat. And that’s just it—choices. This isn’t your typical “school lunch.” We provide options that are nutritious AND delicious, and I could not be more excited to introduce this to the Wheeler community this year.
As far as my team goes, they are excited to bring their very distinct culinary backgrounds together to execute a menu that Wheeler has never seen. My team takes a lot of pride in their skills, and they are ready to show off.
WHAT SORT OF INPUT WILL STUDENTS HAVE ON WHAT DINING SERVICES OFFERS?
HIEBER: I recently met with the Student Senate to receive initial ideas from them, and it was extremely informative. I plan to meet with student groups in a regular cadence to ensure we are keeping up with current trends and their voices are heard. Feedback is critical to success, and I welcome it with open arms.
We are here for the community. From everyday meals to pop-up events with our new smoker, and special events to welcome new families, we will be here. I have a passion for community and family, and I look forward to integrating our CulinArt family into the Wheeler family.