After finishing four amazing years of work at Restaurant Noma this past December, I announced that I was embarking on something new. I wanted to start a company that would essentially change the way we thought of what it meant to eat in a school. I planned to gather chefs from all over the country to put their work ethic, knowledge, and enthusiasm towards a different type of challenge. Each of those chefs would be in charge of a school’s kitchen and cafeteria. Just like in a restaurant, that chef would be responsible for overseeing everything that contributes to making the customer happy … in this case, those customers would be kids. Approximately 3 months have passed since I made that announcement…
Well, as of today, I can say that it’s all happening! Here’s how we came to choose our starting point.
Through a mutual connection, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Manuel Rivera a few months before I even announced I was starting Brigaid. Dr. Rivera, or Manny, is the Superintendent of New London Public Schools in New London, Connecticut. The person who introduced us had an idea about what I was planning and thought that Manny would be a good person to speak with.
When I first spoke with him, I was not really sure what we would talk about. Was this a call just to get advice? Was he just interested to hear a little more about what I was thinking? But it turns out he was dreaming bigger: After about 15 minutes of me talking about the idea behind Brigaid, Manny said that he thought New London would be a perfect fit and that I should strongly consider launching this new company in his schools. It was so exciting to hear that someone within the school system, particularly a Superintendent, was interested in Brigaid.
Over the course of the next couple months, we exchanged some emails and phone calls. We talked more about New London and his vision and plan for the school district. Each time, I was so impressed by how much the district had in the works. They were exploring many new ideas and beginning many new initiatives. It quickly became clear to me that Manny was not your average Superintendent and that New London was not your average small town.
I eventually announced that I was leaving Noma and that I would be starting Brigaid. I received a tremendous amount of positive feedback and interest from various school districts around the country. It was an exciting time to say the least. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to visit all of the schools that reached out, but I was able to learn so much from all of the awesome places I was able to meet people. The visit to New London was slated for the tail end of this tour. It was clear I was in for a “thorough” visit. The itinerary that Manny sent me was a week long and was packed with everything one could do to get the feel of a community including touring all six schools in the district with their principals, visiting the three local colleges, and even meeting the Mayor!
I was sold. For Manny, this wasn’t just about “School Food.” Brigaid was a piece of a bigger puzzle. This was about improving and enriching the lives of the people in this community in every way possible — including through food and food education. This is what Brigaid is all about.
So that’s the story. We are just getting things going here in New London. There will be breakthroughs and there will be setbacks. Regardless, Brigaid is here and we plan to work hard to accomplish our dreams. I hope you find time to follow our journey as we move forward.