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Chef Bobo Retires

Calhoun's food program was conceived and crafted by Chef Bobo when he arrived over 18 years ago, and his vision changed how schools in New York and across the country think about lunch. He has written a remarkable chapter in Calhoun's history.

In December of 2020, Chef Bobo announced his decision to retire. Below you will find a letter from Chef Bobo to the Calhoun community.

Dear Calhoun Community, 

Chef Bobo serves student at lunch

After working for 18 ½ years in my perfect job, it's time to move on to create something new. It's been an amazing ride working at Calhoun for these many years with full permission and support to create a lunch program that has a become a model for school lunch across the United States and in locations around the world.

What's to love? First, the kids, the most lovable and curious kids I could ever have imagined. To watch these kids discover the different tastes in various cuisines and the delight of trying a never-before-eaten piece of fruit — well, that is fun. The curiosity of high school students in learning the politics of our food system amazed me. Those are discussions I'll miss.

And, of course, the hundreds (if not thousands) of Calhoun alums who I have fed and loved. There has been so many during 18 years. I always get a warm feeling when I hear from former Calhoun students how much they miss lunch at Calhoun. How excited they get when they have the opportunity to come back for lunch! Some of those "kids" have even gone into food professions after learning that the quality of ingredients is what makes good food great.

I love the current staff in our kitchen, from Chef Jose, our Senior Chef, who has been with me since day one of this journey and has grown from a young kid washing pots to an amazing chef; and Chef Oscar who followed a similar path, as well as the remainder of our staff who came to us after completing culinary school. There is Zobe, who brings a wealth of nutrition knowledge, Dan who is so creative, and Ilya who wows us with his talents and organization. Working with these people each day has been the most fun anyone could have in a professional kitchen. They, along with all the chefs who have been part of this program through the years, have been the essential blocks for building our program.

I want to express my admiration and love for the administration, faculty and staff of Calhoun, all of whom I respect as consummate professionals who have supported our efforts and shown great appreciation for what we do. Without you as our partners, our task would be more difficult.

Not to be missed are the generous parents of Calhoun, past and present, who have trusted what we do for their kids and have supported the risks we ask kids to take in trying new things. Going from a diet of processed food to a diet of healthy food is a transition that is sometimes difficult for kids.

So what's next after Calhoun? I have a few things percolating. First, I'll be on a leave of absence for a bit. During the months we were not able to work, I developed an appreciation of two types of cuisine that I want to study more closely and eventually write about — the foods of the African Diaspora. I'm awakening to the realization that these cuisines, along with the foods of our Native population, are the authentic foundation of American cuisine. There is no processed food in those cuisines. Processed foods are an unfortunate industrial contribution to the American diet.

I'm happy to be able to leave this lunch program in the highly capable hands of Chef Ilya, who has worked with me for more than 13 years and has demonstrated an appreciation of how important it is that lunch be experiential learning. Plus he is a damn good cook!

I'm proud of what we have all accomplished together, and I'm looking forward to celebrating with you as soon as possible. I want to give each of you a hug and thank you personally. It's been an honor to be a part of this amazing Calhoun community. 

Chef Bobo