We saw the return last spring of our grade 6 leadership dinners, under the mentorship of restaurateur and Dwight alumnus Jacob Hadjigeorgis ’02, who began mentoring our students through this program in 2016.
It begins in the classroom with discussions about different leadership styles and skills and then moves into the kitchen, where students learn about, and take on, different roles in the restaurant industry by running their own pop-up restaurant. Three different restaurants, in fact!
This Dwight recipe for learning invaluable leadership and teamwork skills was cooked up by Head of Middle School Ron Posner, Associate Head Shelby Berry, and Jacob, who owns several popular restaurants: Jacob’s Pickles, which has expanded to several locations beyond its original Upper West Side home; Maison Pickle; and Tiki Chick. He also founded Jacob’s Pickles Digs NY, a non-profit that supports urban farming in New York City.
The dinners themselves are the culmination of the program, which tasks students with collaborating on a large-scale project designed to sharpen their skills and empowers them to implement their own ideas. In the end, they enjoy seeing the successful fruits of their labor.
Following Thanksgiving, Jacob's team, including Executive Chef and Culinary Director David Perez, began meeting with sixth graders to discuss how certain skills translate into different roles in the running of a restaurant, spanning the front and back of house. The experts also shared insights about best food practices, customer service, and creating an enjoyable dining experience. Students, who were divided into three groups, were guided into how to set up their own pop-up restaurants in the Quad. Each group selected a different theme for their dinner, created the menus accordingly, and designed the décor to showcase the theme: international night, a trip to outer space, and savoring the four seasons. Our sixth graders then assumed their different roles, welcoming diners, and preparing and serving wonderful meals for their parents, teachers, and administration — a pride of hungry customers!
“Each and every year that we have this project, the kids manage to raise the bar for the following year. Their creativity and collaboration consistently leave the adults facilitating the project and parents who attend the dinners in awe,” reports Mr. Posner.
Putting students in an unprecedented challenging situation like this certainly turns up the heat, but their determination and energy made for three successful evenings again this year filled with good cheer and great eats!