From the moment that Vanessa Martinez saw the students from Somerville High School’s culinary arts program doing ice sculpture carvings at Taste of Somerville, she knew that she wanted to strike up a partnership.
“I was so impressed by what they were doing and I said, ‘I would love to be able to see how we could work together,'” says Martinez, assistant marketing manager for Federal Realty, the real estate trust behind Assembly Row. “On our end, we were like, ‘We want to help you, we want to work with you.'”
SHS Culinary Arts is part of the district’s Center for Career and Technical Education. The high school chefs have opportunities to cook with whatever ingredients they dream up and even serve their creations at the program’s bistro. Jeff Stuart, the program’s culinary and pastry instructor, says the bistro runs just like any professional restaurant he’s ever worked in.
The first restaurant at Assembly Row to take the bait was Earls Kitchen + Bar, an upscale chain serving everything from oven-roasted Atlantic salmon to bibimbap.
The partnership will consist of a co-op program, where the high school students can get hands-on experience working in the restaurant’s kitchen. Chefs from Earls will also go into the high school to demonstrate cooking techniques. The partnership could lead to summer or full-time jobs, Stuart says, although he notes that most of the students already have part-time jobs.
But Martinez hopes Assembly Row’s partnership with the high school chefs won’t stop with Earls.
“The goal here is to make sure that we can get the high school involved with other restaurants in the future,” she says. “Earls is really like the guinea pig or the prototype, to see what will work and what doesn’t, so that we can expand on it and ultimately help the high school and create a partnership not just for one individual restaurant, but for the entire property.”
While the partnership with Earls is just getting started, the culinary arts program is already working with Assembly Row.
“We have a huge partnership with Assembly Row,” Stuart says. “On Dec. 15, the Culinary Arts program will be the highlight of the huge even that they’re holding. We’re doing eight ice carvings on site, around Assembly Row, which is pretty righteous. There’s not any other school that I know that does ice carvings. You would typically learn that in post-secondary education.”