The Final Buddy Cooking Class: Goodbyes with Pizza

Tuesday, April 28, marked the final day of an incredible culinary journey that has spanned 15 months here at BenGusto™. It has been an honor and pleasure working with my high school’s Best Buddies chapter, as well as the school’s special education students and general students. The nine evenings that we’ve shared around the kitchen table have made up one of the most memorable and valuable experiences of my life so far. I’ve seen students discover new interests and passions in the kitchen, hone life-long valuable culinary skills, develop an artistic eye, and push their social boundaries to engage in a new community of people. The classes were always the talk of the school as we all seemed dependent on them for an escape from the normal pace of life, the daily activity or social circle. I had students crying to me in the hallways over this final cooking lesson for weeks. I, too, have had trouble coming to terms with the ending of this magnificent journey. It is truly one that I will always cherish, learn from, and continue to share. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me!

– Chef Ben

 

For our final cooking class, we, of course, prepared pizza straight out of the ovens of Napoli (Naples)!

The gang gathers around the table one last time as I get out the fresh balls of pizza dough.

The gang gathers around the table one last time as I get out the fresh balls of pizza dough.

I tell Beth to toss a ball of dough across the working table. She laughs, and then does it.

I tell Beth to toss a ball of dough across the working table. She laughs, and then does it.

(from left to right) Halle, Robert, CJ, Marcus, Ms. Hope, Penny, Patrick, Beth and I.

(from left to right) Halle, Robert, CJ, Marcus, Ms. Hope, Penny, Patrick, Beth and I.

I give a demo on spreading the pizza dough. This was the most difficult task. After many rips and fold-overs, we managed to make half-circle and half-square pizzas.

I give a demo on spreading the pizza dough. This was the most difficult task. After many rips and fold-overs, we managed to make half-circle and half-square pizzas.

I help Penny and Patrick out with their pizza dough. They ripped the center a little.

I help Penny and Patrick out with their pizza dough. They ripped the center a little.

CJ, Marcus, and Katie. CJ rolls out his dough with a rolling pin.

CJ, Marcus, and Katie. CJ rolls out his dough with a rolling pin.

Robert, Penny, CJ, Marcus, Katie and Halle. Marcus is doing his signature finger pose here.

Robert, Penny, CJ, Marcus, Katie and Halle. Marcus is doing his signature finger pose here.

Katie and Robert made one of the simplest, yet most beautiful, pizzas of the evening.

Katie and Robert made one of the simplest, yet most beautiful, pizzas of the evening.

Robert and his pizza of mozzarella, tomato, fennel, basil, onion, and arugula. A delicious spring vegetable dish!

Robert and his pizza of mozzarella, tomato, fennel, basil, onion, and arugula. A delicious spring vegetable dish!

Halle made the most creative pizza of the night (and my favorite). She meticulously placed fennel leaves on the border of a sauce-less focaccia pizza, and then topped it with olive oil, tuna, fennel, arugula, and caramelized onion.

Halle made the most creative pizza of the night (and my favorite). She meticulously placed fennel leaves on the border of a sauce-less focaccia pizza, and then topped it with olive oil, tuna, fennel, arugula, and caramelized onion.

Ms. Hope, Ms. Crawford, and I developed an efficient assembly line for cutting and plating the pizza. Ms. Crawford would carry the pizza from the oven to my long cutting board, I would slice the pizza into 8-9 slices, and then slide all the slices down to Ms. Hope who would plate each slice on a platter.

Ms. Hope, Ms. Crawford, and I developed an efficient assembly line for cutting and plating the pizza. Ms. Crawford would carry the pizza from the oven to my long cutting board, I would slice the pizza into 8-9 slices, and then slide all the slices down to Ms. Hope who would plate each slice on a platter.

Lorenzo shows off his muscles. Lorenzo was a little late to class, so we unfortunately don't have many pictures of him.

Lorenzo shows off his muscles. Lorenzo was a little late to class, so we unfortunately don’t have many pictures of him.

Pizza is served!

Pizza is served!

The Final BenGusto Buddy Cooking Class: Pizza and Goodbyes

 

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