“Meet Your Chefs,” left to right: Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda, Michael Greer, Badger Cafe, and James Hatch, Home Kitchen Cafe. Their motto — “We don’t do clarified butter; we don’t fold stuff in.”
“Meet Your Chefs,” left to right: Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda, Michael Greer, Badger Cafe, and James Hatch, Home Kitchen Cafe. Their motto — “We don’t do clarified butter; we don’t fold stuff in.”
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On a recent Monday night, 22 happy eaters bellied up to a cooking station in the kitchen at Midcoast School of Technology in Rockland to observe chef James Hatch of Home Kitchen Cafe in action. Hair tucked under a toque, apron wrapped around his middle, Hatch was putting together a sample meal of Spanish-style frittata for a tapas-style appetizer, and fish tacos with black beans, fresh salsa and homemade corn tortillas to follow.

Half of those watching had signed up back in February to take part in the first "Meet Your Chefs" series of cooking demonstrations but had to be placed on a waiting list after the initial program sold out almost immediately. The original five sessions featured chefs Kerry Altiero and Tony Gioia of Cafe Miranda, Lynette Mosher of Lily Bistro, John Stowe of Rustica and David Cooke and Nancy Wood of Amalfi on the Water, all Rockland restaurants, and Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden. The foods ranged from Altiero's homemade pasta to Mosher's duck confit, Stowe's risotto, poached haddock from the Amalfi team, and the jaw-dropping surprise of Hill's mussels cooked with pine needles. Questions flew, the participants eagerly jumped in to help pass and clear plates, and some took notes on techniques and ingredients, while others volunteered to eat second and sometimes third helpings if they were offered.

For this season - another sellout with a waiting list once again - Meet Your Chefs features Hatch, Michael Greer of Union's Badger Cafe, and an encore performance by Altiero. A second round of chefs will come on board again in early spring.

While the program is on its way to being a solid success, introducing foodies to a sampling of offerings from area eateries, its true purpose is not to be self-perpetuating, but to fund a new community outreach program called "Sharing the Table," a collaboration between RSU #13 Adult Ed and the Rockland After School Alliance, and the brain child of Altiero. One Meet Your Chefs session can pay for two to three classes in the Sharing the Table program.

Sharing the Table is designed to introduce families to the preparation of easy-to-make, nutritious meals using affordable, simple and whole ingredients. The time spent shopping, cooking and eating together is intended to provide additional ideas for families to spend time together in other ways. All the chefs in Meet Your Chefs have donated their services, so enough money was made from the cooking series to fund the first three sessions of Sharing the Table, which will be held Mondays, November 30, December 7 and 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the MCST kitchen.

Vanessa J. Richards, adult and community education coordinator for RSU #13, says that Sharing the Table has 14 participants signed up, and there is room for 20 students per class, with an ultimate goal of 60 per year. Richards' long-term goal is to expand the program to adult education organizations throughout Maine and New England. "The Maine adult ed community is very close," Richards says, and she doesn't think it will be too difficult to pass on information about the pilot program's success, and Altiero will write the curriculum for the classes.

Hatch, Greer and Altiero (their motto: "We don't do clarified butter; we don't fold stuff in") plan to have local growers, such as Beth Schiller of Dandelion Spring Farm in Washington, talk about their products and perhaps even donate some for use in the classes. They also will supply recipes to the Sharing the Table families, listing the healthy ingredients and where they can be purchased. Eventually, they'd like to see the program expand and be promoted via sponsorship of local grocers, on restaurant menus and through adult education web sites and brochures across the state.

To sign up for "Meet Your Chefs" or "Sharing the Table," visit www. rsu13.maineadulted.org.