Help a teacher!
I teach high school in the city and are in the middle of a unit on food, and how food works in the city.
We would LOVE to do a session with a restaurant or chef where we eat lunch, and then have a conversion with the preparer of food Do you know anybody who might be willing to have us for lunch, and also speak with our students?
Ideally, this person:
Is willing to engage in a dialogue with high school students.
Is mindful, and can speak about the origin of her ingredients.
Can speak about the challenges/rewards of working in the food industry in New York.
Is willing to consider the idea that preparing a meal as an act of authorship in which something is communicated.
We are looking to have lunch somewhere in the city. We can pay around $20 per person for 30 students and 3-4 teachers. Would love some ideas! Who are the fun, mindful chefs we should visit?
That should be easy in the current economy. ;) Since you've posted on the Outer Borough forum, may I suggest a Taiwanese-style restaurant by the subway, yet not quite in Flushing? Andy's Seafood & Grill, @ 63 St in Queens, 15 min subway (E, F, or a local line) ride form Manhattan and you save your fare on a cheap and delicious cuisine.
I've been a regular there since the opening: the food is very good and rich (and not hot, unless you order it that way), and the service is fantastic. You can go as ethnic as you want or as mainstream as you prefer, and $20 pp is VERY generous provided you bring in 30+ people; in fact, you can have a Per Se level of service for that money. I can bring this printout in front of the owner if you like.
Why do I care? (1) I've been a devoted customer since day one: the food is very good and child-friendly ; (2) it's a community place; the service is fantastic: they know your kids names and your grandchildren birthdays; (3) kids can learn more about a tremendous ethnic variety of NYC; (4) the restaurant meets all of your criteria, and yes--that includes both the hard work and business challenges: the person who opened this unconventional restaurant took a huge risk and he's trying to do it the real American way--by hard work, he would be proud to discuss it with you; (5) as a compliment to their wait staff.
Please think about it.
I love the idea of contacting the French Culinary Institute. And The Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York, might also hook you up with one of their alums. CIA alums usually are more forthcoming with a discussion of food and the restaurant business than non-CIA folks who're perhaps a little less passionate about food.
With regard to the origin of ingredients -- contact someone at Blue Hill Restaurant. They, along with their Farm upstate, seem to be at the cutting edge of local sourcing/sustainable food these days.
For all the hype and the flash, Gordon Ramsay is committed to developing young chefs (and potential chefs). I think a call to Gordon Ramsay at the London restaurant may very well yield an invitation to look around, listen, and have lunch.
Heck, ask, and ye shall receive -- knock and the door will open unto you. All the high-end places can say is "no," and you might be surprised with what they'll offer a group of interested high school students. Good luck!
Hi folks! Many thanks for all of your suggestions. They were really helpful! We ended up going as a group to L'ecole, the French Culinary Institute's restaurant.
The folks there could not have been more accommodating and helpful. The chef came and spoke with our students for 30 minutes or so before the meal. The waitstaff was really patient and enthusiastic in both answering a slew of questions from my students about the food and the restaurant, and also providing traditionally great service. The menu was really perfect because there were different "levels or risk" for different students to explore. Some jumped into steak tare tare and terrine... others stuck to the burgers salads and omelettes.
Without us asking, they invited each student, in small groups to spend some time in the kitchens observing the different stations.
Many of my students left the experience trying to figure out how culinary school might fit into their post-high school plans. It was a wonderful morning.