School cooks’ reunion will mean good eats here Friday

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, April 29, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Preparing and serving meals to large groups of people will be nothing new for a team of cooks being reunited to help with a benefit dinner at the Niles Senior Center.
A handful of retired Ring Lardner Middle School cooks are being brought together for a chili supper at the senior center, 1109 Bell Road, on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.
The dinner is all-you-can-eat and includes dessert and beverages. Tickets are $4 in advance and $5 at the door. The event will benefit the senior center, specifically its prescription program.
Senior Center board president Harold Finley, a former assistant principal at Ring Lardner, threw out the idea while talking with senior center nurse Tammy Long, whose mother Betty Humphrey is a retired Ring Lardner cook.
There are five former cooks from Niles Community Schools involved with the fundraiser including Humphrey, Mary Stevenson, Lillian Graham, June Forshee and Rita Hibinger. They have all been retired for at least 10 years.
The chili will be prepared from scratch on Friday morning in the senior center kitchen by the mother-daughter team of Long and Humphrey. The rest of the cooks will then gather together at 5 p.m to serve the dinner.
The cooks would not disclose the entire recipe, but said one of their secret ingredients is the Chili-O seasoning mix. They will be making two different batches, a mild chili and one that is a little spicier.
Long And Humphrey anticipate they will need a large list of groceries, including about 20 pounds of ground beef, to make enough chili for at least 200 people.
All of the participating cooks are occasional visitors to the senior center and are happy to be helping out in any way they can.
Multiplying a recipe so that it will accommodate hundreds of people, will not be a stretch for Humphrey. She did it for 25 years as a Ring Lardner cook.
Humphrey said the way that school lunches are prepared have changed a lot since she began as a cook in the 1960s.
Many years ago, school meals would include entrees like roasted turkey and chili that were made completely from scratch by the school cooks, Humphrey said.
She is excited about being reunited with her fellow employees from years ago.
Graham, who worked in Niles schools off and on for 17 years, said she misses working with the student helpers in the kitchen.
She said an added bonus of attending the chili supper will be having a night away from the kitchen.
For more information, call the Niles Senior Center, at (269)683-9380.