Like our First Lady, Toni Ross believes in teaching children the joy and health benefits of growing, preparing and eating nutritious food. That credo comes to life in the Jeff Salaway Memorial Kitchen, named after Ross' late husband, the Nick in Nick and Toni's East Hampton eatery, at the Hayground School, which she helped found 20 years ago. There, students of all ages learn to source and prepare their meals. Hayground School's 12th Annual Chefs Dinner, honoring Ross and Chef Claudia Fleming of the North Fork Table & Inn, was held there.
"I've been participating in this dinner since its inception," Fleming told us, "Jeff was a dear friend of mine. He had the biggest heart, was passionate about everything, but mostly about teaching children about the amazing attributes of growing and cooking your own food and being able to nurture yourself and others in a holistic and healthy way. How we take care of ourselves and how we take care of others is the future. It's an honor to be able to cook for people."
Hayground School was conceived in "someone's kitchen," 20 years ago to create a school to which they could send their own kids, Ross remembered. They wanted diversity, "the exchange of cultural ideas and more of a mentoring and apprenticeship situation than teachers feeding students, to have the kids go on an exploration of sorts."
"Part of our dream was to have a school where teachers could teach things they were passionate about and could be partners in all curricular and activity choices," said John Snow, who also sat around that kitchen table, dreaming up Hayground. That would include "bare knuckled discussions about values, how kids were doing, diversity - really important things. Not always talking about bus duty and who's going to take lunch."
"Hayground is the most radical educational experiment in the East Coast and maybe the country," Jon Marder told us.
Their kids go off to Ivy League colleges, but the Hayground founders measure success by the inner strength, boundless curiosity to learn and ability follow their dreams that their graduates exhibit.
The evening's Celebrated Chefs included Josh Capon (Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Co.), Tom Colicchio (Crafted Hospitality), Elizabeth Falkner (Chef/ Author/ Artist), Alex Guarnaschelli (Butter), Abigail Hitchcock (Camaje Bistro), Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Hundred Acres, Rosie's), Christian Mir (Stone Creek Inn), Joe Realmuto (Nick & Toni's), Jason Weiner (Almond, L&W Oyster Co.) Sommelier Julie Berger (Nick & Toni's) and Fromager Michael Cavaniola (Cavaniola's Gourmet). Charles Antin of Lot1.Bid was the evening's auctioneer.
For more information about Hayground School, visit www.hayground.org.