Six tables, three on each side of the gymnasium, were beautifully adorned with place settings and candlelight, as in a restaurant or a portion of banquet hall. In between was the food. Shopped for, prepared and cooked by middle school and high school aged young people and adults guided by teachers and professionals, including chef Nina Vincenzina.
Kulanu Academy, a Cedarhurst-based school for children, teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities, unveiled its new state-of-the-art commercial kitchen on Oct. 18. It will be used to teach its clients how to prepare for a career in the culinary arts.
Joe Geiger, president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania-based First Nonprofit Foundation, first visited four years ago after learning about Kulanu from a foundation board member. The organization gave $100,000 to Kulanu to kick off its campaign to build the commercial kitchen.
“Kulanu has a terrific program and people with special needs are undervalued in our society,” Geiger said. “We want people that thy have value and can contribute to society.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Beach and former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder of Far Rockaway had teamed up to win a $250,000 grant to aid the kitchen installation.
The kitchen has two ovens, a stove, several prep tables, a commercial-grade walk-in refrigerator, multiple sinks and a dishwasher. “It is literally soup to nuts,” said Beth Raskin, Kulanu’s executive director.
On the day we visited, the menu included breaded eggplant and ricotta rolls, cream cheese and smoked salmon bits with dill, crudités cups with zesty cream, small shell past with tomato, feta and basil, cole slaw cops, cucumber hummus spirals, spanakopita (spinach-filled filo dough), salmon and tuna tartar spoons with crispy twills, mozzarella and cherry tomato skewers with honey balsamic glaze, assorted cut hero slices, eggplant roster peppers and fresh mozzarella, grilled vegetables with Swiss garlic mayonnaise, Portobello mushroom brie cranberry redox, sushi, pastries and strawberries.
Judging by how many times the guests returned to the buffet table, the food was me’od ta’im (very tasty).