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For Lower Schoolers, an Early Thanksgiving Feast
adawson
Lower School Director Ted Corvino helps Kindergartners fill their plates.

For 24 years, Charlie Williams, the beloved head chef at the Lower School, has been whipping up Thanksgiving meals—with all the requisite trimmings—for eager students, faculty, and staff alike.

On November 9 at 11:00 a.m.—and not a minute later—the first of many hungry diners arrived. A line of Kindergartners quickly formed, impatiently organized as only a long-held, highly-anticipated tradition at the school could produce. Plates were piled with fresh roast turkey, baked ham, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cranberry sauce, and corn bread. Vegetarian lasagna and dumplings and vegan turkey cutlets were also offered. And for those with room to spare, pumpkin, apple, cherry, and sweet potato pie followed. Lower School Director Mr. Ted Corvino P '94, '97, '02 ladled out apple cider.

Mr. Williams arrived at 4:30 a.m. that morning to begin preparations for a meal that, like all his daily lunches for the Short Hills Campus, feeds more than 350 students, faculty, and staff. Come January, he will prepare a similarly extravagant Italian meal for Lower Schoolers, followed by a Soul Food celebration in February (a personal favorite, which he introduced), and an International Food Festival in March. "I have to make sure everything is perfect," he says. Two other chefs and six additional kitchen staff—three of whom were sent from the Basking Ridge Campus—were on hand to help.

Children were too preoccupied savoring the food to comment on the Thanksgiving feast before them, but the turkey appeared to be a favorite. Throughout the two-hour lunch period, during which various classes rotated in and out, squeals of "This is the best lunch ever!" could be heard.

Chef Charlie Williams (second from left) with his kitchen staff.

Does Mr. Williams, who will cook another Thanksgiving meal for nearly 60 of his friends and family members at the end of the month, have a favorite dish that he enjoys preparing for Pingry Lower Schoolers? "I love cooking it all, even the sweet potatoes, which I don't even like!" he answers. "I love seeing how happy the Kindergartners are coming in. Watching their faces, their smiles when they see all the food and decorations, that's good enough for me. That makes my day."

 

 

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, adawson@pingry.org