When it comes to making his grandmother proud, Perkins student, Mario Berardi-Sanger gets straight A’s. Mario will be the featured Perkins culinary expert at the Taste of Wachusett event held at the Cyprian Keyes Golf Course from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30. This is a major culinary event that is expected to attract over 500 tasters from around the region.
“When I was little, my grandmother always wanted me to help her in the kitchen,” Mario said. “So I did, and now I love to cook.”
Mario, who is a member of the Building Educational Success Through Transitions (BESTT) program at Perkins is super excited about the possibility of being center stage at such a grand event, and even more excited about the possibility of being recognized for his accomplishments. “I have never been a part of a cooking event like this,” Mario said. “I love to help in the kitchen and I love to cook, but I’ve never been in a cooking contest.”
Mario, alongside Perkins Food Services Manager, Erin Weeks, will be making the fettuccine from scratch in the week leading up to the event. The pasta will then be cooked tableside by a tuxedo clad Mario and served with his signature pesto. “We have already made a gallon of pesto,” Weeks said. “We wanted to be sure to get some made while the basil is still fresh. We also sold (Mario’s pesto) at the local Farmer’s Market this summer. We made a dozen four-ounce containers a week and sold out every week.” Asked what kind of dedication making that amount of pesto and pasta took Mario replied.” Mentally, it is a lot of work, but you have to push through it to get the rewards at the end.”
More than just a cook, Mario has also become a friend and a role model to other students. “I love to work with the little kids,” Mario said. For one young man, seeing Mario in line was reason to behave. “Often when adults couldn’t get through to this student, Mario could,” Weeks said. “It was a treat for him to come through the (cafeteria) line and see Mario.”
Mario has performed about every job there is to do in a kitchen, according to Weeks, and is well known for his work ethic. “Mario works nine hours a week in the kitchen and then is a relief dishwasher for us as well,” Weeks said. She went on to note that Mario was the only student to complete 100 hours of training in the kitchen last year. “He was my best student,” she said. In years to come, Mario hopes to have the opportunity to cook for others often. His favorite dishes to prepare are Italian or Southern in flavor. The Taste of Wachusett will be an opportunity to experience Mario’s pasta for yourself.
Tickets can be purchased online at perkinsprograms.org or at Perkins, 971 Main St., Lancaster; The Clinton Daily Item, 156 Church St., Clinton; or at any Clinton Savings Bank branch. Questions, please contact Kerry Flathers at 978-368-6449 or email her at Kflathers@perkinschool.org.