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Lunch celebrates ‘green’ restaurant in Perth Amboy

Luncheon celebrates ‘green’ restaurant on MCVTS Perth Amboy Campus

State and local officials and school district administrators were served a gourmet lunch to celebrate the designation of the culinary arts program on the Perth Amboy Campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools as a “green” restaurant.

Chef Stephen J. Moir, the Perth Amboy Campus culinary arts instructor, told the guests that the certification by the Green Restaurant Association is the first for a public school in the nation. The two-year application process focused on practices that are environmentally sustainable, including the use of local produce and the elimination of disposable dinnerware and utensils.

“I wanted to thank the administration for backing this effort,” Moir said. “The students bought into this 100 percent. The juniors led the way. They will be able to use this in their college applications.”

Among those attending were state Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher, Assistant Secretary Alfred W. Murray, Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, city Superintendent of Senior Services Dianne Roman, MCVTS Superintendent of Schools Brian J. Loughlin, Principal Robert Fuller and Chef Philip Cragg of the American Culinary Federation’s Jersey Shore Chefs Association.

“This expands the horizons of the students in their understanding of where their food comes from and how to make good choices,” Fisher said. “When they go to get jobs in restaurants and hotels, they are going to have training the other candidates don’t have.”

“They’re starting out ahead of the game,” Moir said, noting that about 40 percent of his students go into the food industry, while the others choose other careers, including becoming doctors and lawyers.

Moir said all of the produce used in the program comes from New Jersey, while the meat comes from nearby Pennsylvania and the seafood from the Garden State commercial fishing industry.

“It’s unbelievable the quality we get out of New Jersey,” he said, adding that much of New Jersey’s vegetables and fruits now are available year-round. 

The switch to local buying and the elimination of disposable paper and plastic resulted in a net savings of $1,100 in the program’s budget, Moir said, with $3,000 saved by the elimination of disposable water bottles in the school. He said efforts to make the school more green would be ongoing.

“One of the interesting things in going through the process was how much we were already doing,” said Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education.

The luncheon began with an appetizer of loin of rabbit wrapped in smoked bacon. The entrees included a choice of scallops and clams over angel-hair pasta, grilled free-range chicken breast and meatless “veal” parmesan, which consisted of panko encrusted portobello mushroom slices over tomatoes. Moir said 33 percent of the entrees prepared in the culinary program now are vegetarian, with many being preferred by the students.

Roman said Perth Amboy Campus culinary students cater all the major events of the city’s senior citizens program.

“We count a lot on this school,” Mayor Diaz said. “The food is delicious, too.”

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. The Perth Amboy Campus, the Edison Academy and the Woodbridge Academy have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools. The East Brunswick Campus has been designated a National Green Ribbon School in recognition of its “green” curriculum and sustainable building management practices. The district celebrated its centennial in 2014.

More information on the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools is available at