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East Chapel Hill High Cafeteria Staff Competes in Garnishing

ECHHS Ron Fogarty Ron Fogarty, the cafeteria manager at East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS), learned the importance of visual appeal in food preparation many years ago, while he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. It may seem odd to pair “master gunnery sergeant” and “expert garnishes” in the same profile, but Fogarty developed impressive skills in both areas during his 29 years (and two months) in the Marines. Now, in his current position, Fogarty demands the same attention to detail among his staff that he learned long ago in the military. Each year, he organizes a “garnish competition” for his staff, and the 2019 results are in!

Fogarty said this year’s competition at the ECHHS kitchen was a good one. “Three associates showed their talent with kitchen utensils, creating some impressive plating garnishments,” he said. “Our Assistant Principal, Ms. Herrera, was the main judge, and she selected three students to aid in the decision for the ‘Best Garnish of East Chapel Hill High.’ The decision was a tough one, and a tie was declared.  We had to bring in our tie-breaker vote, which was cast by Principal Kenneth Proulx. And the winner is ... David Sharp.”ECHHS garnish winner

On a shelf in Fogarty’s office inside the cafeteria, a stack of garnish books is always available for staff to consult, with titles like “Apple Garnishing” and “Edible Art.” Some of the books are dog-eared and faded, collected in his overseas assignments from Japan and other countries. He also keeps a cloth cutlery roll with more than a dozen garnishing tools, utensils that go well beyond melon ballers and carrot peelers.

“If someone wants to learn something, and I know how, I will show them," Fogarty said. "Most of the time when I show someone something, the rest of the staff will come over and start watching. Sometimes I just hand them the garnish books and tools and tell them to give it a try.”

Fogarty said the expectations for food presentation in the Marines were always high and unyielding. “Every pan you put on the line in the military had to be garnished. Every cake was well-decorated. You eat with your eyes. If it looks good, it probably tastes good.”

So, calling all students and staff at ECHHS: Please take a moment to admire the garnish and fruit and vegetable arrangements on ice, next time you buy lunch at the cafeteria!