WOOD RIVER JCT. — It took a collaboration between all 30 Chariho Tech culinary arts students, as well as students in the hospitality and event planning, advertising and design and floral design programs, to put together Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving lunch in the Chariho Tech dining room.
“They get to practice what they’re learning,” said Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci.
The luncheon, which is free for area seniors, is partially funded by a grant from the Community 2000 Education Foundation.
“We give $500 every year as part of our budget,” said Christopher Phillips, foundation president. “I enjoy everything about this event, because the kids work very hard; sometimes everything is not absolutely perfect, but every year it gets better and better.”
This year’s luncheon was executed without a hitch and the atmosphere in the kitchen was calm. Culinary instructor Chef Sara Reilly said the meal was the same as last year, but with a different dessert.
“We made a brown butter cake with warm sautéed apples, caramel and whipped cream," she said. “We kind of kept the roasted carrots, the green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry, turkey, gravy. We did do a butternut squash soup again to start, because that was a fan favorite and we added added a different dinner roll; we added a spiced raisin with regular. The classics. I think that’s what people want.”
Culinary student Autumn Fuller of Richmond, a junior, was working on the event for the first time. “It’s very fun and it helps us get a lot of experience,” she said. “We try do prepare weeks in advance so on the day, we all know what we’re doing.”
Senior Matthew Corrente, also of Richmond, said the team was relaxed and ready to serve the food.
“We’re comfortable,” he said.
The lunch has become a festive kickoff to the holiday season, and Chariho Director Gerald Auth said it was also a way for the school to reach out to members of the community.
“Chariho Principal Craig MacKenzie and I, one of our goals this year is to really do a lot of community outreach and bring the community in,” he said. “This is one of those events that allows us to shine as a school community, but also work with some of the leaders of our community as well.”
Among the 125 guests was Debbie Thibeault of Pawcatuck, who said she was attending the luncheon for the first time.
“A group of us girls, we meet usually once a month for lunch and several of them have been here before so they asked us to come.,” she said.
“We’re all Chariho alumni too,” her friend Brenda Chalifoux added.
Festive touches included floral arrangements on all the tables, corsages for the guests, and a television monitor in one corner of the dining room showing an image of a crackling log fire.
Assistant Superintendent Jane Daly, who attends the lunch every year, said she thought the atmosphere in the dining room this year was particularly welcoming.
“It’s so nice to see everybody from the community come and this year especially, for some reason, I don’t know if it’s the fireplace or the decor but it really feels like Thanksgiving,” she said. “I feel like I’m in someone’s home.”