Inspiration struck Melinda Leonard as she sat in the audience last year at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)’s Menus of Change conference. Leonard, associate director of dining services at Phillips Exeter Academy, saw a presentation on Asian food featuring CIA chef-instructor Shirley Cheng. She began to wonder what her kitchen team at Exeter might be able to do with more knowledge of Asian cooking techniques and ingredients like curry leaves, methi seeds, Korean chili powder and Chinese mustard.
So after the presentation, Leonard introduced herself to Cheng.
“I said, ‘Would you come to our school and do training?’ and she said, ‘Let’s talk,’” Leonard says. Later in the year, Cheng led three days of culinary workshops for the culinary staff at Exeter. The private school, one of the country’s oldest secondary schools, is located in New Hampshire, and the student population is made up of residential and day students in grades 9 through 12.
Photos courtesy of Phillips Exeter Academy