Growing up, he played in a band and went to college to pursue his love of music. Looking back, he now recognizes the many parallels between music and cooking. Both involve a great deal of synchronization between a lot of moving parts, continuous practice, and a finished product that is an artistic expression of teamwork and passion.
This past November, Wesley Barrington became the head chef at Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London, CT and joined the Brigaid team in hopes of contributing to a program and a community that is transforming the way students eat in school.
Wesley is 26 years old and originally from Duxbury, MA, where he developed a passion for the bustle and excitement of a busy kitchen as a dishwasher at a corporate pizza chain.
With a lot of hard work and the help of the right people and the right chefs, everything seemed to fall into place and Wesley became a full-time chef at La Brasa, a restaurant in downtown Boston. After two years in the restaurant business honing his skills and growing as a chef, Wesley decided he wanted to look for a position with more purpose and meaning. He had primarily been cooking rich, meat-heavy meals, and he now wanted to make the switch to preparing healthier meals that were equally as tasty but a lot more wholesome. After stumbling upon an Internet ad for a position as a Brigiad chef in New London, Connecticut, Wesley decided to check out the area. He immediately fell in love with both the community and Brigaid’s mission.
In the four months since Wesley joined the Brigaid family, he has experienced both the rewards and the difficulties involved in preparing approximately 450 portioned meals for kindergarten through fifth grade, Monday through Friday, starting at 5AM each day.
He shared that perhaps the most difficult aspect of the school lunches is that there are six waves of students who eat lunch at different times within a three-hour block. Keeping those portions consistently good and fresh for such a long period of time is, unsurprisingly, no easy task.
However, the rewards greatly outnumber the challenges. Seeing the raw ingredients turn into 400 healthy meals for students in a matter of hours is pure magic. And even better is seeing kids who haven’t been exposed to a wide variety of foods fall in love with new flavors, such as the cinnamon dusted orange wedges that is served at the schools.
Looking ahead to the future of Brigaid, Wesley added, “if you’re at all interested in a world filled with healthy, happy people living as a community, all across the globe, then Brigaid should be on your mind.” If we allow it, food has the power to strengthen bonds between families, friends and people everywhere.
Riley Burfeind, a junior at Connecticut College majoring in Economics and minoring in Sociology, is a Brigaid intern.