Cheers to the Chef – A Tribute to Bill Edgerton

Cheers to the Chef – A Tribute to Bill Edgerton

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Bill Edgerton and I have similar musical tastes. I always looked forward to stopping by the kitchen to see what was on the day’s playlist. Many days it was the Grateful Dead or perhaps The Band.  As the Kitchen Manager Bill is a man of many talents.  In one minute he can be in an in-depth discussion with a student teaching them the finer points of the science behind cheese making or the pasteurization of milk and in the next, he is recalling the setlist from a recording of a Grateful Dead concert that he attended in the early ’80s?  

Bill will be a hard act to follow. He has guided Chewonki through an expansion of the kitchen and into an era where the amount of locally produced food from our own and nearby farms has increased exponentially.  As a master of his craft, he makes preparing a meal for 50 or 500 look easy!

Bill is not one to comfortably receive accolades or be put in the spotlight. A recent Instagram post announcing Bill’s retirement was filled with reflections from former participants and staff.  Each individual mentioned a personal story about the times they worked with Bill on a work project or to prepare a meal. The recurring theme of the many posts emphasized the important mentorship that was taking place while the meal was prepared, as the conversation ranged from the specific recipe to talk of life. Bill, as he is known to do, always goes the extra mile to support a student preparing a culturally important meal or to provide a tasty specialized offering for a member of the community with a food-related challenge.

As he trucks on to the next adventure I will miss walking into the kitchen to see what music is filling the air along with the laughter of staff and students working together to prepare the next meal.  Bill has left his mark on each of us who have been privileged to connect over a meal that he has presided over.  I have my favorite Bill recipe, what is yours?

Best of luck to Bill and I look forward to crossing paths as he spends some time at Chewonki’s Big Eddy Campground casting a fly for landlocked salmon.  Oh, and just in case he misses making Chewonki pizza,  Big Eddy has a wonderful wood-fired pizza oven, I’ll bring the ingredients!

Written by Greg Shute, Vice President of Lands and Waters

Get the Chewonki Kitchen Classics Cookbook 

 

Notes From the Chewonki Community – 

“Bill’s food let me spend quality time with the people I cared about most. I will be forever grateful to him and his delicious meals I remember so fondly!!”
Lucy Hoeschen, Semester 59

“Bill was an integral part of our time at Chewonki. A favorite memory is eating his fantastic Blueberry Buckle in the afternoons with a cup of tea. Bill always made us feel welcome in the kitchen and, especially, was a friendly, welcoming face when I visited Chewonki after my semester was over. I’m so glad I was able to spend some time with Bill during my Semester and say hello when I stopped by afterward. Thank you for all your years of service and fantastic food and welcome to generations of Chewonki students.”
Tarara Deane-Krantz, MCS 37

“As a semester student, listening to metal and punk music while cooking in the kitchen with Bill was one of the highlights of my semester and a safe, supportive space I regularly returned to! Thank you Bill for always being such a kind, funny, and talented member of our community!”
Eric Nathanson, Semester 45 and Staff Member

“I remember one day I asked him how exactly the milk was pasteurized so we could drink it. It was so fascinating to understand the process and to learn that raw milk (unpasteurized milk) can be drunk by those who are lactose intolerant and not experience any pain! Thank you Bill for all the fun cooking experiences and for sharing your knowledge with us!”
– Evie Horton, Semester 60

“Bill, what a legend! You always made me feel seen and cared for. From special orders for wilderness trip beef jerky to your nuggets of chef wisdom to leftover fridge special treats to authentic life check-ins…You certainly left a lasting impact on me and my Chewonki experience!!! Much love from Florida and all the best for your retirement!”
Christina Roach, Girls Camp, Trips and OC Staff

“Bill was an important figure in my life at Chewonki. He and I shared a crossword book in his office. He would always do the hard ones and I could figure out a few easy ones. He also knew my extreme love of his pulled pork and would often save me some if I was out on program.”
– Leah Kramer Heyman, former staff

“Greatest. Camp. Chef. Ever.”
Aiden Perkinson, Boys Camp and Tripper

“Bill helped me with my human ecology project where we made maple and birch syrup! He also taught me about sustainable farming and food practices. Thanks for all you have done Bill .”
– Lindsay Finn, Semester 52

“Bill is wonderful! He always has a smile and a song lyric! Bill has always gone out of his way to make sure all people eating at Chewonki have all their dietary needs met. The Chewonki community is losing a wonderful member. Congrats on retirement Bill!”
Angie Klein, former staff 

“Bill worked with me one-on-one on my human ecology project where I created a series of videos about preserving food and homesteading practices. We spent two days making feta cheese from Chewonki milk, apple sauce, and I learned how to properly freeze vegetables. Bill is such a special, kind human being and he inspired a lifelong passion and respect for cooking and preserving farm-fresh food in me and many many more semester students. Congratulations on retiring Bill!”
– Eleanor Nelly Paasche, semester 53

“I will never forget helping bill prepare dinner in afternoon work programs, and brainstorming fun new flavors of communal popcorn to make for the semester.”
Sarah Kern, Semester 60

“The first Saturday that the semester kids made dinner, Bill taught us to make an incredible veggie pizza and it was such a wonderful, cozy, welcoming moment because of Bill!! He also always said hi or offered a quick smile when kids were walking by the kitchen!”
– Laura Richard, Semester 63

“I loved talking to Bill about his restaurant experiences and I remember when he taught me how to properly hold a knife. I love cooking and learning about the industry and Bill’s experiences. [This is] something I will always cherish from my time at Chewonki.”
Melody Lee, Semester 58

“Bill always wanted to share where the food we were having was coming from, and I always found it fascinating to hear about Chewonki’s relationships with the farmers in the surrounding area. His interest in food, and sourcing food in a way that is healthy for everyone has made me super passionate about this important issue!”
– Michael Simons, Semester 58

“My son had life-threatening food allergies and Chef Bill was so patient with my drilling of food safety questions and because of his knowledge and food allergy awareness and protocols I made the decision to send my son to Chewonki. Even though I was so nervous to “release” my son to another chef it was the best decision all around. I so appreciate the patience and care Chef Bill bestowed on my son creating a safe food experience within an incredible life experience.”
– Paula Brown, Semester 60 Parent

“One of my top favorite chores was learning to cook from Bill. I learned so much about bread making and the wonder of cheese. Thank you Bill for giving me the confidence to cook and losing my irrational fear of the kitchen! Wish you all the best!”
– Maritza Padilla, Semester 46

“Bill, Chewonki will miss you so much! I always appreciated your kindness and patience and was excited to talk music with you (thanks for the mix CD!). I remember that in one of my semesters you were able to accommodate a student who was gluten-free, peanut-free, AND vegetarian, which was amazing. Enjoy retirement!”
Meg Giuliano Snow, Former Semester Fellow

“I ate so well while at Chewonki because of Bill!! Even the plain roasted sweet potatoes were the best thing I ever ate. I remember trying a cheese he had made, it had been aged a few months. It was so special to try such a small, precious delight. It blew my mind. Eating well during my Semester made me feel so well taken care of. He will be missed. (And I miss his food).  Bill, congrats! Enjoy retirement!”
– Xochi Maberry-Gaulk, Semester 46

“Bill was the first person to make me feel excited about cooking and comfortable in the kitchen. Some of my favorite MCS memories are from kitchen chores, learning by his side. Sending you a huge thank you and best wishes, Bill!”
Alex Schulte, Semester 37

“The best part about visiting our daughter at semester 61 was having Bill’s chocolate chip cookies, OK visiting our daughter was nice too. Hopefully, he’ll publish the recipe on the Chewonki website….”
Bill Flaherty, Semester 61 Parent

“An awesome guy who always made everyone feel welcome made incredible food and was very nice.”
Huckleberry Huber-Rees, EMS Student

“I have the fondest memories of helping Bill with meal prep while listening to the Grateful Dead during Semester 39. Congrats on your retirement, Bill. Although Chewonki will miss you, it’s very well deserved!”
– Schuyler Dalton, Semester 39

“From what I recall, Bill came from a more “traditional” cooking scene before Chewonki. The amazing thing is he embraced working with the farm, adjusting recipes based on what was available, instead of just deciding the menu. And then encouraging the farm to produce different ingredients he could use to “spice” things up. I’m sure it was an adjustment but one that he clearly enjoyed because it shined in his product. Job well done – congrats, Bill!”
– Dick Thomas, former staff

“When we had an acoustic jam session in the root cellar of the kitchen with tom twist and eating his fantastic cheese! Bill thanks for everything, you are amazing. Congrats!!”
– Ryan Linehan, former staff