by Jennie Oemig
CHELMSFORD – From perfectly cooked rice and roasted vegetables to bagels that are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the newly renovated kitchen at McCarthy Middle School is up and running and turning out some great food.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” said Nancy Antolini, director of nutrition services for the district, about all the shiny, new equipment.
That new equipment includes two Alto-Shaam Prodigi Pro combination cooking ovens, as well as a range, griddle and charbroiler, all from Vulcan. Of course, the addition that has everyone, from the students to the administrators, excited is the Ovention conveyor pizza oven.
The new, cutting-edge equipment will allow the kitchen to run more efficiently and give staff the ability to provide more menu options.
“As kids get older, they want to have more and more choices,” McCarthy Middle School Principal Dr. Jeff Parks said.
Another benefit of the new combination cooking ovens is that food preparation is relatively foolproof, as all the recipes can be pre-programmed into the system. Whoever is cooking simply puts the food in the oven and pushes a button; it will then cook at the right temperature for the correct amount of time.
After some training with the new equipment, the kitchen staff had everything operational for food service just a couple weeks before December recess.
Most of the work took place over the summer. However, as is often the case with construction, delays pushed back the completion date well into the start of the 2023-24 academic year.
Though he’s new to the building this year, Dr. Parks said he made sure to visit the kitchen periodically over the summer months to check on the progress.
“Just seeing it come together, seeing the new floor and everything being brand new is incredible,” he said.
Dr. Parks said the kitchen staff is also excited to have a brand-new workspace.
“They’re through the roof,” he said. “They couldn’t wait to get in here and get going and be able to not only use all of the new equipment, but to serve the students.”
The McCarthy Middle School kitchen upgrade is the latest in a series of improvements to the nutrition and food service operations at Chelmsford Public Schools.
The kitchen at Parker Middle School underwent renovations in 2021, and Town Meeting recently authorized borrowing for upcoming improvements to the Chelmsford High School kitchen.