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The food at The Elegant Chef, the in-school restaurant at Nashoba Valley Technical High School, has never been an issue.
The restaurant is considered one of Westford’s culinary gems, and the students and staff in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality programs have won a myriad of awards at local and statewide competitions to prove it.
The same can be said for the service and ambience, both top-notch at The Elegant Chef.
So one Nashoba Tech School Committee member, the father of a student in the Hospitality program, decided it was time to bring the look of the restaurant up to par with the food and the service.
“The general public is in this restaurant more than any other place in the school, so why not showcase it?” said Chris Prehl, a committee member representing Ayer. “Get rid of the industrial school flooring and give it a nice paint job and new lighting, get people to say, ‘Wow, this really looks like a restaurant.’ It gives it a whole new atmosphere.”
Easier said than done, one may think. But on the Culinary/Hospitality advisory board sits Christina Phanord, director of human resources for the Boxborough Regency Hotel. When Prehl mentioned his idea for updating the restaurant, Phanord immediately volunteered Regency staff for the labor.
That just left the paint, lights and flooring.
It just so happens that Prehl, during a recent visit to Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg, asked how the school managed to open a $3 million Veterinary Technician program at the school and was surprised to find out it was through donations.
“I asked a woman how they got all the businesses to donate, and she said, ‘All you have to do is ask,’” Prehl said.
So he asked Ace Hardware in Acton for some paint. Then he asked Concord Electric Supply in Westford for lighting. And Post Road Carpet One in Acton for flooring.
And they all did their part.
Over February vacation, Boxboro Regency staff painted the walls of The Elegant Chef.
Then, over April vacation, Rich Larrabee, the Regency’s chief engineer and resident of Littleton, a Nashoba Tech district town, brought two employees, his son Dan Larrabee of Leominster and Ed Gray of Winchendon, back to the school to install the new flooring.
Students in the Electrical Technology program at Nashoba Tech will install the new lighting.
Prehl estimates about $4,500 in equipment was donated, plus the labor.
“Over the years, Nashoba has been very fortunate to receive equipment and supplies from our many business partners,” Superintendent Denise Pigeon said. “We are so grateful for the donations they provide to the school. This project, through the generosity of a few business partners, has provided a much-needed renovation and modernization of our student-run public restaurant. We are so thankful for their generosity and invite the public to come by and see the new style.”
Prehl’s son, Cory, a sophomore in the Hospitality program, said he and other students in Hospitality and Culinary Arts are psyched about the updates to the restaurant.
“We got a new potato peeler recently and everyone was all excited,” he said, “so getting new floors in here really means a lot to all of us.”
And if Chris Prehl has his way, that won’t be the end of it.
“Next up is replacing the tables and chairs,” he said. “This is going to be monumental. Hey, the community loves this place. Cory said they really get a good crowd in here and a lot of regulars, so they deserve to have a nice-looking restaurant.”
Anybody have tables and chairs they’re looking to donate?