Fundraiser gets culinary students thinking about what they eat


Q&A with chef Charles Limoggio

For his seven years at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, chef Charles Limoggio has been helping his students prepare heart-healthy meals for the American Heart Association’s annual Go Red Luncheon.

The fundraising event, promoting nutrition and awareness of heart disease, takes place at Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland, and is normally attended by some 400 people.

Limoggio’s culinary arts students will compete next Thursday, Feb. 11, for a chance to have their meal served at the luncheon on Feb. 15. For Limoggio, a teacher as well as che, the event is a chance to teach students culinary basics and healthy ingredients at the same time.

A 1981 graduate of Johnson & Wales, Limoggio has decades of cooking experience at multiple venues between New York and Maine.

“Everything from small, privately owned restaurants to food and beverage management in Terminal C at Logan International Airport, to college feeding at Berklee College of Music and at University of New England,” he said this week.

Prior to coming to Westbrook, Limoggio taught le Cordon Bleu at McIntosh College for nine years. He is a certified executive chef with the American Culinary Federation, and also a certified ServSafe instructor and proctor for the exam.

Next week, his students will be charged with coming up with their own menu options, which will be voted on by guest judges. The winning recipe will be replicated by the kitchen staff at the Holiday Inn, while Limoggio and his students enjoy the luncheon, silent auction and break out sessions.

The American Journal spoke with Limoggio this week about his class, this year’s menu items, and where the culinary world is heading.

Q: How do your students prepare for the Go Red Luncheon tasting?

A: They research heart healthy menu options in textbooks and the Internet and decide with their team what they want their menu to be.

Q: What cooking techniques are high school culinary students learning?

A: They learn the classical techniques – saute, roast, grill, fry, braise and poach.

Q: What sort of dishes will students be working on?

A: 1. Greens with a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, chicken Alfredo with a cauliflower-base sauce instead of cream and a fat-free peach frozen yogurt.

2. Mediterranean cucumber salad, Parmesan-crusted cod with potat- pear latkes and roasted broccoli, and cherry almond crisp

3. Baked chicken Parmesan, brown rice pilaf, sautéed zucchini and summer squash, and vanilla lemon berry parfaits.

Q: What constitutes a heart-healthy meal?

A: Low fat, healthy fat such as olive oil, low-cholesterol, flavorful and low-sodium, as well as non-traditional American portions. As a culture we are of the mentality that more is better. Americans should go to Europe and see the portion sizes.

Q: Tell me about the event process. Who judges the meals? How much time does each team have to complete its meal?

A: The judges are brought in from the American Heart Association. I also invite the Westbrook/Gorham Rotary board members and a few foodies from the vocational center. The teams decide on their menu, cost out each component and write a food order for the specific amount of food required to produce 40-50 tapas-style tasting plates. The days prior to the competition, they are in the kitchen “tweaking” their recipes and deciding on presentation of the food items. Then they set the dining room. The day of the competition, they are here for the entire day, not just their two-hour class.

Q: Why do you think this is a worthwhile endeavor for students? What does it teach them about culinary arts?

A: Exposing high school students to healthy cuisine gets them thinking about what they eat on a regular basis. Flavorful, tasty food does not have to be fat laden or rich in sodium. I teach them that some lemon juice, used sparingly, will give almost the same sensation on the palate as salt.

Q: How do you think the culinary world has changed in the last few years?

A: I taught le Cordon Bleu for nine years before coming to Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. It was loaded with butter and cream because we taught the classics. I think people are looking for healthy alternatives when dining out. The farm-to-table movement is bringing fresher local foods to the forefront.

Chef Charles Limoggio, a longtime culinary arts teacher at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, is readying his students for a competition next week. The winning team will provide its recipes for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Luncheon in Portland Feb. 15.