Teaming up for brunch

A learning, rewarding experience for culinary students, yacht club

The Cranston Herald ·

Food brings people together, and that’s just what Florence Spenard and Ken Gilbert had in mind when they spoke with Chef Steven Versacci of the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center last year.

And it was people that Versacci was interested in when he agreed to have his students cater several events at the Edgewood Yacht Club.

Past Commodore Spenard and Rear Commodore Gilbert envisioned a Sunday brunch – the first of which was held Jan. 19 – as bringing club members together as well as an opportunity to introduce the club to potential members. It would be a bonus event during the cold months when only a select group who have named themselves “The Frozen Few” brave conditions to race Sunfish on Sundays.

The timing couldn’t be better for Versacci. He was looking for an event where students would interface with the public and to taste the kind of experience they would encounter after graduation.

One of the first tests was a matter of logistics. The yacht club, only a couple of years old after being built to replace the Victorian clubhouse that burned to the pilings during a 2011 winter storm, wasn’t designed as a restaurant. In fact, it has a tiny kitchen, seemingly an afterthought that sailors might like something to eat.

As it turns out, the kitchen enhances the lesson. Only a few last minute selections, such as scrambled eggs, get cooked in the kitchen that is tight quarters for two and impossible for three to navigate.

“Space is limited that’s part of the real world,” Versacci said.

So, the EYC brunch – like the one planned for this Sunday – got its start on Friday and Saturday. Bacon, sausage, chicken marsala, cut up fruit, breads, tarts, salads and so much more was prepped and heated up early Sunday – they got started at 6:30 – before delivery to the clubhouse. A lot more went into the brunch. Juices, coffee and omelets cooked over portable burners on the spot by students Luis Fidas and Nick Crudale. 

Versacci, who ran a Boston catering company before turning teacher 15 years ago, calls on student volunteers to run the EYC brunch. On Sunday, he was joined by five students and Chef “Mel” Rogers.

Chef Mel and Kelsie Tridento worked the kitchen. Chef Mel didn’t slow down as Kelsie talked about how she cooks at home and enjoys how food can make people happy. She finds a good sense of taste is critical and says she tastes everything before declaring it ready to be served.

And where does she see her culinary career taking her?

“I want nothing to do with culinary,” she said sincerely. Her goal is to become a veterinarian technician.

She says the program has taught her a lot about cooking, and no doubt her parents call on her to be creative in the kitchen. It’s also taught her something else.

“I used to be shy,” she said. She said she’s met a lot of nice people.

Spenard and Gilbert said the culinary program catered a couple of club events that led up to the idea of a Sunday brunch.

“We wanted to try to get people together during the winter,” she said. Gilbert is looking to open the club to more people, especially those who have an interest in boating but are not sure where or how to start.

On Sunday, it was a mix of both. There were a couple of diehard sailors who were thinking of the upcoming season and itching to get back on the water. There were many more, however, delighted with the view of the bay and to be enjoying it and good company over good food.

This Sunday’s brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is open to non-members. The cost is $20. The money covers the cost of the food leaving a few bucks for the club. The students share in the tips.