Berkshire welcomes new Food Service Coordinator Laura Lipoufski, previously Head Sous Chef at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA, to its Residential Treatment Center team in Canaan, NY. Lipoufski brings to Berkshire over 20 years of experience in the culinary industry and her strong local network of chefs, farm to table restaurants, and farms.
Through mentoring culinary arts hopefuls through her position as a head chef at Canyon Ranch, Lipoufski realized her passion for helping young people reach their potential in the field. “At Canyon Ranch, I was known as the person who would take our kitchen staff out of the dish room and develop them into something else,” said Lipoufski. “Both bread bakers and cooks at Canyon Ranch started in the dish room.”
Lipoufski’s love of mentoring young people brought her to Berkshire, where she began teaching monthly cooking classes with fellow Canyon Ranch chef Billy Boudreau. Berkshire’s therapeutic recreation staff took the lead in choosing groups of students to attend the classes, each one with a different theme. These included egg cookery, baking, searing meat, knife skills, desserts, and seafood. Chefs Billy and Laura asked students to make two promises—try something new that you’ve never tried before, and be open to learning new things.
Nine months have passed since the two chefs first came to Berkshire’s campus, and students are still excited to learn.
The most important part of the cooking classes happens once the class is over, and is something that Lipoufski hopes to instate as she embarks on her new role at Berkshire.
“As a society, we’re so busy and caught up in our own lives, so I thought it would be a great idea, especially for the teenage population, to have family dinner,” said Lipoufski. “It’s so important to sit down together, talk together, say grace—whatever family means to our students—and just have that time to be together and enjoy a meal.” Lipoufski plans to host the classes, along with Boudreau, at least twice a month, and continue to bring students together for family dinner.
Twice a month, Berkshire will also host a fine dining evening for all students on campus, giving them the chance to practice dining etiquette and enjoy a relaxing dinner with friends. “We want to take proteins like bone-in ham and roast beef and plan dressed-up meals for our students,” said Lipoufski.
Fresh food empowers
Berkshire’s Canaan location opens up even more opportunity for creating fresh, balanced meal selections for students and staff, and furthering campus education on farm to table cooking.
“This area has so much to offer as far as farm to table food,” said Lipoufski. “I plan on bringing in some fresh produce from the local farms I network with and incorporating them into our menus. Justine, our Work-Based Learning teacher, hopes to involve the students in canning and jarring fresh vegetables for sauces and salsas.” The culinary team also plans to work closely with Berkshire’s Horticulture Program to make use of the fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruits grown by students on campus.
Lipoufski believes that access to fresh food goes a long way in empowering students as they learn more about where their food comes from, as well as what they enjoy, and what they don’t. Students are already teaching her as much as she hopes to teach them in the kitchen.
“I’ve learned from the students that second chances are a must, and that here at Berkshire and everywhere, people deserve second chances” said Lipoufski. “When they share some of their experiences with me, it opens my eyes, and I’m inspired by how many students genuinely want to work, because they want to support themselves, and because they want to be part of something.”