Student Atelier gets a lesson on the restaurant business for food week

The Re-WireNXT Student Atelier visited Aranci 67 in Georgetown to learn about the restaurant business.

The Re-WireNXT Student Atelier visited Aranci 67 in Georgetown to learn about the restaurant business.

Tusk & Cup coffee impresario Jason Varga and head roaster and owner of Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters Ed Freedman met with the Re-WireNXT Student Atelier on Tuesday, July 29, for the atelier’s food week. Students also visited Aranci 67, a new restaurant in Georgetown.

Each week of Re-WireNXT’s summer Student Atelier has a focus in which the middle and elementary school interns explore concepts related to the Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill site. Cross-pollination of ideas is encouraged between each vertical: Transportation, Ecology, Architecture, Environmental Remediation/Green Energies, Food/Hospitality/Farming, and Fashion/Art.

Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee, located in Ridgefield, boasts locally sourced coffee beans and foods and is dedicated to serving the Georgetown community. Mr. Varga discussed the importance of coffee culture, highlighting his enjoyment of being able to form relationships with his customers and communicate with them about house specials.

Mr. Varga opened a dialogue with the atelier about aspects they do and do not like about big coffee chains. The general consensus was that simplicity is best — no crazy-fancy drinks or foreign languages — as long as quality is also a top priority.

Currently in its 12th month of business, Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters is Fairfield County’s first and only USDA-certified organic coffee roasting company. Mr. Freedman spoke to the atelier about the importance of growing organic beans, as coffee is one of the most highly pesticide- and insecticide-sprayed crops.

Mr. Freedman said that organic eating is not only about consumer health — it affects the health of the soil, the farmers, insects, animals, and beyond. Also discussed was the importance of discriminating between products labeled USDA-certified organic and others labeled just “organic.” Mr. Freedman pointed out the responsibility attached to a USDA certification, right down to his dedication to using chemical-free cleansers in the facilities.

Following the discussion with Mr. Varga and Mr. Freedman, Re-WireNXT Student Atelier interns and student principals visited Aranci 67, a new Italian restaurant in Georgetown. The atelier received a tour of the kitchen from executive chef and owner Antonio Perillo, who is Naples-born and has more than 30 years of experience cooking in Italian restaurants in Sorrento, Italy, and in Westchester, N.Y. Mr. Perillo chooses to source many of his foods locally and organically, while also sourcing select foods, like his tomatoes, from Italy; this balances freshness and preserves an authentic taste.

Jane Philbrick, local artist and supervisor for the Student Atelier, talks with Jason Varga and Ed Freedman about coffee and organic food.

Jane Philbrick, local artist and supervisor for the Student Atelier, talks with Jason Varga and Ed Freedman about coffee and organic food.

The Student Atelier had lunch at Gilbert-Miller Park, next to Aranci 67. They were joined by Georgetown environmentalist Susan Robinson, a Re-WireNXT guest during the Ecology Week 2. Ms. Robinson, who helped to create the park, discussed the bio-remediating impact of indigenous plants growing at the site and also explained her efforts to remove invasive species. Ms. Robinson’s visit demonstrates how the neighborhood community of Georgetown village inspires Re-WireNXT’s integrated campus verticals.

Later that day, interns created their own models of restaurants with accompanying menus, incorporating the information they learned from Mr. Varga, Mr. Freedman and Mr. Perillo. They sketched ideas of what the exteriors of their restaurants would look like and proceeded to create models using bark, wire mesh, cardboard, Styrofoam, poster board, paper, glue, clay, cork, and water. In creating their menus, the interns conducted research with the high school student principals, identifying local, organic farms from which to source almost 100% of their ingredients.

 By inviting field professionals, such as Mr. Varga, Mr. Freedman and Mr. Perillo, the atelier intends to foster the same social enrichments envisioned in the proposed Gilbert & Bennett restoration project.

Every Friday, they welcome the community to the studio at the G&B Cultural Center in Wilton to view and discuss the vertical themed projects produced by interns and student principals.

Re-WireNXT Student Atelier is funded by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Redding Education Foundation, and Fairfield County Bank, and is sponsored by Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts. For more information, email [email protected]

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