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Feeding an  artistic spirit

Food Art for Kids Art: Restaurant owner gives cooking classes to benefit schools

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Harris Welden, owner of the Pearl Restaurant in Peterborough, is conducting a five-class fundraiser called Food Art for Kids Art to help local elementary school arts programs.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

It all came about one night last November.

Harris Welden, the owner and executive chef of the Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Peterborough, was talking with one of his servers, Sam Pikcilingis, about her day job. Pikcilingis is the art teacher at Rindge Memorial School and she was telling Welden about her limited budget. Pikcilingis had even brought some of the restaurant’s old menus to school for scrap paper.

And Welden was amazed that Pikcilingis could run the school’s art program for grades K-5 with such limited resources. That’s where the idea began.

Since purchasing the Pearl in 2010, Welden has donated cooking classes to the Humane Society and the Peterborough Players for auctions, as well as numerous gift cards to various charities in the region. So he thought why not do something to benefit local elementary school art programs.

While he enjoys helping out local causes, Welden thought it was time to do a fundraiser for one of his choosing. And Food Art for Kids Art was born.

“Harris said ‘I have this idea for a cooking class to support the arts,’” said Pikcilingis. “And we started working out an idea for a menu.”

For $125 each, 12 people get a six-course meal prepared by Welden and his staff, including gratuity, wine pairings for each course and a little bit of insight into the world of fine dining. The first class, benefiting Florence Rideout Elementary in Wilton, was held April 28 and last Sunday’s class will go to Pikcilingis and the students at Rindge Memorial.

“It goes directly to the art teacher,” said Pikcilingis. “Each school has different needs. If you look at my budget being $1,500, $1,000 is huge. This is really big for us as a school.”

Of the $1,500 raised each class, $1,000 goes to a local school’s art teacher and the remainder is used by Welden to purchase the food and wine for the class. Welden and his staff donated their time, while Pikcilingis’ husband, Sam Winslow, washed dishes.

The first two classes sold out in a couple of weeks and they even oversold the second class and asked a few people to switch to the next class on Aug. 18 that will go to the Peterborough Elementary School.

“I had been toying with the idea of doing a cooking class,” said Welden. “And I wanted to do something positive with it.”

As part of keeping with the theme of Food Art for Kids Art, Welden designed his latest menu to mirror what the students in Pikcilingis’ classes are learning. The Kobe Beef Tartare was a play on cubism. He created a Green Eggs with Ham dish relating to the Dr. Seuss classic, and also tried his best to serve dishes in relation to the work of artists Paul Gauguin, Eric Carle — the author and illustrator of the “Very Hungry Caterpillar” — and Vincent Van Gogh.

“Basically, Sam gave me the info on the artists and I took it from there,” said Welden.

The placemats for Sunday’s dinner were drawn by Pikcilingis’ art students. It was just a way for them to be involved since they will be receiving some of the money raised over the five-class program.

“This is really big for us as a school,” said Pikcilingis. “But I think it’s really great that it is not only benefiting our school, but other schools in the region.”

During the class, Welden explains what he is cooking and the process that it takes to create such an elaborate meal. He also invites volunteers to help plate the courses, making it as interactive as possible.

“This is a chance for them to get insight into how a restaurant is run,” said Welden.

As for the art teachers, it is hard to put into words what a $1,000 donation means for their classes. Florence Rideout art teacher Amanda Luter was caught off guard when she got the initial call from Pikcilingis.

“I was shocked when Sam told me our school was nominated as the first school to receive the donation,” said Luter. “That’s an incredible amount of money. This is going to enable me to get materials I never thought we could have with my budget.”

With an even smaller budget than Pikcilingis, Luter, who teaches in the basement of the school, said the money will be put into a special fund once it is accepted by the School Board and used starting next school year.

“I work with a real limited budget and I would normally do a budget for a couple years with that amount of money,” said Luter. “I’ve been running my budget for around $400.”

Pikcilingis has included her students in the idea from the beginning and is even leaving the decision as to what to do with the donation to a vote. Each grade has its own ideas for the money and Pikcilingis feels it is important for them to have a say.

In addition to the August class, there will also be classes on Oct. 6 to support the Wells Memorial School in Harrisville and Dec. 8 to benefit the Jaffrey Grade School. Welden is in the process of creating menus for the next three classes. For more information or to reserve a spot, call the Pearl at 924-5225.

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