Chef John cooks up lesson at the Public

Nine lucky "foodie" students from Lisa Riley's first grade Roxbury Central School class had a grand, "behind the scenes" restaurant adventure with Public Restaurant's prep cook, John Cronk, on May 2.
It all started when Public's chef, Jill Healy, and Lisa Riley talked how much Riley's first graders liked to try new foods. Healy knew that her own prep cook, John, would be the ideal coach to give the kids an adventure in restaurants, from prep to service, with new flavors to challenge the children's palates along the way. Riley was thrilled with the idea and soon had the entire date cooked up with John.

That Wednesday, nine first graders got an up-close tour of the kitchen, where John explained all the stations of grilling, cooking, warming, plating and cleaning. Then it was off to Public's prep kitchen where each child learned the basics of kitchen hygiene (wash your hands a lot!) Everyone got to scrub and peel vegetables for crudité, learned how to pit and scoop out an avocado and use a juicer to squeeze limes. At the next station, children helped make their own pizzas and quesadillas and and watched how chefs use knives safely to chop and slice things.

After their hard work, everyone sat down together in the dining room at tables dressed with colorful placemats, silk flowers and "Mocktail" menus, where each child choose juices for their beverages, "mixed" by Public's waitresses, Nicky Sprague and Trish Adams. Riley reminded her charges that "Whenever you go to a restaurant, always try something new. If you don't like it, just say 'No thank you.'" Everyone pronounced their pizzas and guacamole delicious and chatted with John about what it's like to work in a restaurant.

John's long tenure as Public's favorite prep cook will be ending in July when he departs for more food adventures as a student at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. "Just think," Adams told all the students, "when 'Chef Jean-Raymond' has his own TV show and restaurant, you can all say you had a class with him way back when!"

Public Restaurant on Roxbury's Bridge Street is open for dinners Weds. through Sunday, year round. This Sunday, Public will be open early from 2 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. for Mother's Day reservations, 607 326-4026. (And, yes, it is kid friendly!)