The Class of 2025 served up the fourth annual round of grade 6 Leadership Program dinners to their parents with style!
As in previous years, they created a pop-up restaurant in the Quad, where they cooked a three-course meal under unique circumstances: without a kitchen.
Without a what … why?
To put students in a challenging situation, where they have to collaborate and problem-solve — and develop a pound of resourcefulness, a cup of determination, and a pinch of grit along the way!
This recipe for learning invaluable leadership and teamwork skills was cooked up by Head of Middle School Ron Posner, Associate Head Shelby Levin, and restaurateur Jacob Hadjigeorgis ’02, who has dedicated himself to mentoring our students for several years. Owner of a trio of popular Upper West Side restaurants, Jacob also founded Jacob’s Pickles Digs NY, a non-profit that supports urban farming in New York City.
“At Dwight, we believe that asking students to work together on a project of this scale is incredibly important,” reports Mr. Posner. “Each year, the project evolves further and the determination and teamwork that students demonstrate reminds us that when students come together to implement ideas of their own, there is no limit to what they’re capable of achieving.”
Well before making dinner was on the agenda, sixth graders learned about different leadership skills and styles in class; and members of Jacob’s team, including Executive Chef Glenroy Brown, shared how these translate into different roles and the day-to-day running of a restaurant. The experts also shared insights about best food practices, customer service, and creating an enjoyable dining experience. Students learned what it takes to run the front of house, the back of house, and then were guided through the process of setting up the pop-up restaurant.
Actually, there were four pop-up restaurants on four different nights, each with its own theme and cuisine:
- Smokehouse: Comforting BBQ and American cuisine
- International: Around the culinary world in one evening
- Beach: A relaxed affair with casual bonfire fare
- Under the Sea: A dive into fine seafood dining
Students had lots to decide and do to prepare, beginning with what kind of meal they wanted to serve and how they would cook it — ranging from induction burners to heat all-manner of pots and pans, an electric griddle, and a heat lamp, to a blow torch for putting the final touch on crème brûlée!
In each class, students joined either the marketing or operations team, creating a clear division of labor; the former designed the invitations, menus, and decor; the latter worked on guest lists and room layout. The class also had to determine who would cook, serve, act as general manager, and who would provide the entertainment. The number and range of these tasks challenged students to be creative, collaborative, detail-oriented — and how to handle the heat, literally and figuratively, in the kitchen!
Of the experience, sixth grader Danielle shares, “Working with a professional chef and team has been an incredible experience. I learned from Chef that if we stay calm, everything will be okay.”
As the Quad was transformed each night for the culminating experience of their leadership course, students took great pride in all the time and preparation they had invested to make their dinners a success. Some donned aprons and toques, some stepped into leadership roles, and all impressed their parents with their delicious and professional five-star results.
Despite the pressure, students were reminded by their mentors to enjoy themselves, too. Maya recalls some final words of advice her team received before the doors opened: “Relax and have fun with it because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience with your friends!”