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From the Whaler Cafe: Giving thanks for many successes

As usual, time is flying by at the Whaler Cafe and we have been very busy. Our garden has been very successful and we are putting most of it to bed for the winter. Our garlic has been planted and will be ready in the spring, and our hydroponics lab will take us through the winter. Congressman Joe Courtney recently visited the Whaler Café and took a tour, and he was impressed with what we are doing. Soon New London Mayor Michael Passero will be stopping by for his own tour!

We are currently redoing our hydroponics lab to make it more automated and are in the process of building a new one in hopes of supplying the school kitchen with more produce. We have also expanded our hydroponics program to a science classroom at the high school and hope to get into the middle schools soon.

Meanwhile, our popular focaccia, which we sold this summer at the New London farmers market, is now available at New London ShopRite. We started our partnership with ShopRite a few weeks ago and the focaccia is flying off the shelves. Please head on down and support us by purchasing our products. All proceeds go directly into the Culinary Arts program. We are working on new products to sell, so keep an eye on this space.

In other entrepreneurial news, we are selling some of our produce to the school’s new lunch program featuring Chef Dan Giusti. So now, not only are the students enjoying his meals, they are growing some of the produce!

In the classroom, my Level One students have been learning about sanitation, professionalism and are beginning their bread section. So far they have made bagels, pretzels and pizza among other delicious foods. Soon they will start the holiday baking section and our second annual cupcake wars!

Level Two and Three students have been busy learning about production cooking, costing and whole animal fabrication. With the money we earned over the summer at the farmer’s market, we were able to purchase a whole pig. Each class was assigned a half. I showed them how to fabricate it into its primal cuts and then they had to cure, brine and smoke their piece, and they are currently in the middle of preparing their piece of pork, adding starch, vegetable and some type of bread and to prepare a meal for 10 people. This is a continuation of their Level One final exam where they had to prepare two identical plates consisting of a protein, sauce and vegetable. Soon we will be buying turkeys from a local farm and each of my advanced classes will have to make a complete Thanksgiving meal.

As Thanksgiving approaches I’m sure you are aware of the football game between NLHS and NFA, the oldest high school football rivalry. My students will be out at the game raising money for our program by selling pizzas in our outdoor brick oven. Soon enough, we will start selling warm apple fritters to help support our Christmas fund for children in New London. And if you are awake this Sunday at 7:45 a.m. you can watch me make apple fritters on ABC’s “Good Morning Connecticut.” Or, try out my recipe included here.


Yields 12 fritters 

2 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped 

1/2 cup cinnamon sugar*

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or deep pan to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Pour in the milk, eggs and oil and stir until fully incorporated. Stir in the apples until they are evenly distributed.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes depending on the size. Fry in smaller batches so they are not crowded. Remove from the hot oil using a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon sugar while still warm. Enjoy!

*To make your own cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

“From the Whaler Cafe” presents updates and occasional recipes from the culinary arts program at New London High School. The program is helmed by chef instructor Thomas Johnson, who welcomes questions from readers at


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