When he’s not rocking the Inly stage with “Pinball Wizard” on the guitar, Inly Middle School student, Chris Ribaudo, is in the kitchen cooking.
“I started cooking when I was 10—easy stuff like eggs, or helping to bake a cake. Then I started making things on my own,” says Chris.
The journey from eggs to author began at home and took a couple of years. He credits his step-mom, Svetlana, for teaching him how to cook. Many of the ingredients and techniques he learned from her can be traced back to her home country of Russia—like Farmer’s Cheese and Russian mayonnaise.
“They put Russian mayonnaise on everything,” Chris reports. “Russian mayonnaise is less sweet than American mayonnaise. It’s thinner, and often has veggie flavors like olives, tomatoes, or zucchini.” He explains, “The mayonnaise helps to bind and adds flavor.” Chris uses this special ingredient in his tuna pocket and meat cutlet recipes.
Early on his mom and step-mom encouraged him to think about writing a cookbook and when it came time for him to choose a subject for his sixth-grade project, he saw an opportunity. For their sixth-grade projects, Inly students must choose a topic they want to learn about and articulate an essential question they will answer about the topic. Then follows research, learning, writing, and presenting. For Chef Chris, this was a chance to learn how to write and self-publish a cookbook. Throw in a little photography, design, and marketing, and he had the perfect recipe for Simple Family Cooking.
“I got to cook recipes, take pictures, mess it up, fix it, and experiment,” exclaims Chris. “I like to cook from a recipe the first time I try something new, and then the second time around, I like to play around and add my own touch.”
Learning how to use the publishing software had its challenges. At one point, Chris said, “the whole book disappeared.” Simple Family Cooking was still in production when sixth-grade project presentation night rolled around, but he stuck with it and was rewarded when the cookbook shipped a year-and-half after beginning the venture. Chris reflected, “I was surprised how long it took.” Undaunted, he’s already planning his second book.
Watching the Food Network “all the time” and being inspired by Chef Emeril, among others, has motivated Chris to pursue a Middle School internship with a chef at Bia, in Cohasset. He hopes to don the white jacket this April.
The Inly Middle School students have two internship opportunities per year. The first one, in fall of seventh grade, engages students in on-campus activities such as auto mechanics or stock analysis, as well as time spent learning how to write a resume and cover letter, so they are ready for the spring. Students also do a lot of self-evaluation and reflection about their learning styles and interests, so they can make smart choices when it comes time to seek a position off-campus. The interest part was as easy as apple cake for Chris. (He highly recommends his apple cake recipe, by the way.)
Although still undecided whether he will pursue a career in music or culinary arts, Chris has spent some time considering what his dream restaurant might be like. “I like modern stuff,” he says, “and it will be expensive, fancy, and high-class. Probably in Boston or New York.” When asked if his restaurant will feature entertainment, Chef Chris quipped, “Probably me.”