STAMFORD, Conn., May 9, 2022—Lunch is an opportunity for students at Waterside School to learn about food, of course—as well as manners, etiquette, and the sense of responsibility that comes from cleaning up after oneself and clearing the way for those dining next.
Waterside opened in 2001 (as it happens, Sept. 10) as a donation-funded institution with a mission to, among other things, ensure the fullest development of every child’s character. Most of that happens in the classroom (grades pre-K through 5th) but the dining room has its share of influence, too.
CulinArt took over dining services at Waterside on March 30. “Students are chosen based on need and potential for growth,” explains Kristen Jelormine, senior chef manager. “They receive a top-notch education along with life skills—this is where family-style dining comes into play.”
A typical meal includes a fresh salad, crudites, hot entrée (such as a Turkey Burger Roll-up), and side items (say, sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli). Students arrive at their dining hall table at designated times, take their seats, and participate in a blessing. Teachers serve them foods on china, they eat with silverware, and students clear their place settings when finished.
Jelormine quickly learned something herself—that the students had no intention of keeping their thoughts to themselves. “They are a wonderful group,” she says, “brutally honest, but grateful, too.” For example, Jelormine hears “Chef Kristen, thank you for making my lunch today” often, and bear hugs are common. So are comments such as, “‘we really liked the Turkey Burger Roll Up, but it needed more seasoning.’ They are quite a vocal bunch, which is one of the things the school is teaching them.”
The 140 Waterside students trace their backgrounds to 37 countries, making it an ideal setting for celebrating diversity with food. “I am looking forward to this month’s promotions,” Jelormine says, particularly since May promotions celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage, Jewish American Heritage, and Cinco de Mayo. A recent visit by Stephanie Dorfman, MS, RDN, to promote Stop Food Waste Day prompted many students to think or say, “‘Oh, so that’s why all those posters of broccoli are here.’ The cultural melting pot [here] is what really makes this account unique and is the perfect climate for our diversity mantra.”
Jelormine’s sole employee is Ingrid Moore, who has run the dining service for Waterside almost since its opening. Now with CulinArt, Moore enjoys an honorary status that evokes her many years of service. On the last Friday of each month, Moore prepares a hot breakfast for the whole school community as part of its “Dress Down Day.” To thank her and celebrate her years of service as a fixture of the school, April 6 was designated “Mrs. Moore Day,” viewable on Instagram here.
Jelormine, who joined Hilary Ham’s district as float chef last October, is already looking forward to next school year as the end of this one draws near—and not just to prepare meals in service to the students. “They have a rooftop garden,” she says. “I can’t wait to get my hands into some dirt!”