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We asked ten chefs from area restaurants to reinvent dishes from their own school lunches-from pigs in a blanket to classic mac and cheese, right down to that iconic carton of chocolate milk. The resulting recipes are ones you’ll want to keep on hand when a craving for nostalgia strikes. By Kiley Jacques - Photographs by Glenn Scott – Food and Prop Styling by Catrine Kelty

All of us can readily call to mind those greasy slabs of pizza and lukewarm tater tots, but a chef’s memory is ever more ripe when it comes to the flavors (or lack thereof), textures, and appearances of those legendary school cafeteria meals. For Patty Johnson of Hungry Betty’s in Marblehead, burger day was the one to excitedly anticipate, and she has catapulted that monster-meat memory into the modern world with her very own “Betty Burger.”

For Stacey Fraser of the Grapevine Restaurant in Salem, it was the toothsome taste of chocolate milk that got her taste buds in motion. She takes the sickening saccharine out of this libation and gives it a complexity, depth, and adult kick not to be found in any single-cup carton. William Fogarty of Scratch Kitchen in Salem used the speedy slapping together of Wonder bread and orange, square-shaped cheese slices as the springboard for his melt-in-the-mouth, bacon-jammed grilled cheese sandwich-its own kind of wonder. And Toby Gado of Essen in Manchester-by-the-Sea had a clear recollection of that flavorless broth called vegetable soup. He says, “Our versionÂ…is inspired by all the local produce farms aroundÂ…I have always been disappointed by the lack of abundance of vegetables in other soups, so we try to overload oursÂ…and they are not overcooked and washed out.” So long to the cans of yesteryear!

Take a stroll down gastronomy lane and experience your childhood cafeteria’s best/worst vittles once again. Perhaps these North Shore chefs can help take the bite out of those commissary crimes.

Hamburger: Betty Burger: serves 1


9 oz. certified Angus beef

3 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

4 oz. caramelized onions

3 pcs. Hickory smoked bacon

Betty’s Cajun spice mix (recipe below)

Brioche roll

Betty’s Cajun spice mix

2 tbsp. onion powder

2 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tbsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried basil

1 tbsp. thyme

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. white pepper

3 tbsp. cayenne pepper

5 tbsp. paprika

4 tbsp. Lawry’s seasoning salt

1. For burger: Cover Angus beef burger with Cajun spice mix on both sides and place the burger on a hot grill. Cook to desired temperature. Add Gorgonzola cheese to top of burger right before it comes off the grill, so it warms and gets creamy. Place burger on brioche roll, top with caramelized onions and crisp bacon. 2. For Betty’s Cajun spice mix: Mix all ingredients together. Store in cool dry place.

Hungry Betty’s Bar & Grille, 161 Pleasant St., Marblehead, 781-990-3165; recipe from Patricia Johnson, chef and owner.

Pig in a Blanket: “Hoggin” the Blanket: serves 12 


1 large package (12) sweet Italian sausages

2-3 c. marinara sauce

1 package puff pastry sheets

1 egg (whipped for egg wash)

Pepper Relish

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 Italian pepper

1 c. water, additional if necessary

1. For Sausages: Place raw sausages in a crockpot. Cover with marinara sauce. Add 1 cup water. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Add water or sauce to keep moist, if needed. Sausages should be cooked through with no pink in the middle and tender when sliced. Cool completely. (Cooking them in advance and refrigerating overnight works well.) Unfold 2 puff pastry sheets and cut into 6 equal squares for a total of 12 pieces. Separate each square and brush with egg wash. Place one sausage on a corner of each square. Roll sausages up in pastry. Turn so seam is on bottom and brush pastry with egg wash. Prepare two cookie sheets with nonstick spray, and place 6 sausages on each tray (separate evenly, as pastry will expand). Bake sausages in an oven preheated to 400° for about 20-25 minutes, or until pastry is an even, golden brown and well expanded. Cool slightly. Can be eaten as is, or drizzled with marinara sauce and topped with pepper relish. 2. For Pepper Relish: Remove skin and seeds. Roast. Cut into julienned pieces. Mix together.

A Haute Dish Specialty Bistro & Gourmet Catering, 4 Johnson St., North Andover, 978-296-4753; recipe from Jen Broberg, chef and owner.

Mac and Cheese: Lobster Mac n’ Cheese: serves 4–6

28 oz. penne pasta

1 qt. Half & Half

1 c. shredded Monterey jack cheese

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

10 oz. fresh, cooked lobster meat

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c. fresh breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese (for topping)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cook the penne in boiling salted water-al dente. Drain and cool. In a large sauce pan over medium heat: bring the Half & Half just to a boil and whisk in Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese. 2. Stirring well, bring back up to a boil and then add in the parmesan cheese and the penne. Add salt and pepper to taste. 3. Bring back up to a boil and add in the lobster meat, mixing well. 4. Place the mixture into individual gratin dishes or a casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and bake 10 minutes until golden brown.

Palmers Restaurant & Tavern, 18 Elm St., Andover, 978-470-1606; recipe from John Ingalls, chef and owner.

French Fries: Pommes Frites with Persillade & Basil and Garlic Aiollo: serves 4

Pommes frites

4 large Idaho russet potatoes (washed, unpeeled)

3 qts. canola oil

Sea salt and fresh ground pepperPersillade

1 bunch flat parsley (picked, washed, and dried)

2 medium garlic clovesBasil and Garlic Aioli

1 oz. egg yolks

1/2 oz. red wine vinegar

4 oz. canola oil

4 oz. olive oil

1/2 oz. garlic (grated)

1/2 oz. basil

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Water, if necessary

1. For Pommes Frites: Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch batons. Rinse in cold water until the water is clear. Drain and blanch in a fryer or deep pot of canola oil heated to 280°F for about 7 minutes. (Blanching time always varies, so it is necessary to pull them out of oil when steam has subsided, and they have just the slightest bit of golden color.) Drain on rack and cool to room temperature. Par-cooked fries can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Heat canola oil to 360°F. Add fries to oil and fry until golden brown and crispy. Drain immediately into large mixing bowl with a layer of paper towels. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add a generous pinch of persillade and serve immediately with basil and garlic aioli.

2. For Persillade: Chiffonade parsley with a very sharp knife. Using a Microplane or a fine grater, grate garlic cloves into a fine paste. Gently rub paste and parsley together (be sure to incorporate evenly).

3. For Garlic and Basil Aioli:In mixing bowl, add egg yolks, salt, pepper, vinegar, and garlic. In separate container, mix oils together. Roughly chop basil and immediately add to oil. Quickly puree with hand blender for a few seconds. While whisking yolks vigorously, slowly add basil oil to yolk mixture to form an emulsion. Continue adding a tiny bit of oil at a time (so as to not break the aioli). If mixture becomes too thick, add a few drops of water to thin. Season to taste.5 corners kitchen, 2 School St., Marblehead, 781-631-5550; recipe from Barry Edelman, chef and owner.

Grilled Cheese: Bacon and Onion Jam Grilled Cheese: serves 1


2 tbsp. onion jam

1 tbsp. olive oil (or melted butter)

2 slices good-quality bread

4-5 slices cheddar cheese (good pedigree)

Bacon jam

1 c. red wine

1 c. red vinegar

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 lb. bacon (cut into thick slices)

2 medium onions (sliced thin, half moons)

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

1. For sandwich: Heat stove top pan (or panini press) on medium-high heat. Brush outer side of bread slices with oil or butter. Break each slice of cheese into 2-3 pieces and distribute between the bread slices. Spread bacon jam on one half of sandwich, then put halves together. Brush pan with oil or butter and add sandwich. Cook 3-4 minutes. With spatula, flip and cook another 3-4 minutes, or until cheese has melted and bread is toasted. Let rest 1-2 minutes before slicing.

2. For bacon jam: Stack bacon and cut into lardoons. Place in saute pan with 1/2 cup water and render over med-high heat until water has evaporated and bacon starts to crisp at edges. When done, leave in pan. Put sliced onion in saucepot with red wine vinegar, red wine, bay leaf, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to med-high heat and cook until glossy and syrup-like. Add bacon and bacon grease and cook 5 more minutes. Pour into shallow baking dish and let cool.

Scratch Kitchen, 245 Derby St., Salem, 978-741-2442; recipe from William Fogarty, chef and owner.

Vegetable Soup: Garden Vegetable Soup: serves 4

1/2 head of cauliflower

16 oz. stewed tomatoes

2 zucchini (trimmed and quartered)

1 small yellow onion (peeled and diced)

16 oz. garbanzo beans (drained)

1/2 gal. vegetable broth

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. pesto

1 tsp. salt

1. Heat olive oil in soup pot and saute onion. 2. Once onion is translucent, add cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini, beans, salt, and broth. 3. Simmer 15 minutes or until cauliflower is soft. 4. Garnish with pesto.

Essen, 4C Summer St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, 978-526-9995; recipe from Toby Gado, chef and owner.

Cheese Pizza: Figaro Pizza: serves 4


1 small ball handmade pizza dough

2 oz. fresh sliced Mission Figs (if not in season, use a good fig preserve)

1/2 c. 100% whole milk mozzarella

3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

Mixed arugula topping

2-3 oz. fresh wild arugula

3 tbsp. olive oil (extra-virgin or 100% olive oil is the best)

Coarse black pepper

11/2 oz. of bleu cheese (crumbled)

11/2 oz. of shaved parmesan cheese (set this aside for the last topping added)

1. For Pizza: To begin, roll out or hand-stretch the pizza dough to approximately 14 inches. Place on round baking pan and add the fresh sliced Mission Figs, placing enough evenly throughout. (If using fig preserve, dollup it evenly across dough.) Lightly spread the 100% whole Mozzarella, then add the thinly sliced prosciutto across the top off the cheese. Bake this in a 400* oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown. When pizza is finished cooking, slice into 8 even slices.

2. For Mixed Arugula Topping: In a small bowl, mix together the following: arugula, olive oil, bleu cheese, and black pepper. Add  to the pizza. Finish off by adding the shaved Parmesan cheese and serve.

Angela’s Coal Fired Pizza, 880 Broadway, Saugus, 781-941-2625; recipe from Christina Sideri, owner.

Tacos: Grilled Mako Shark Tacos with Tangy Texas Slaw: serves 4


2 lbs. Mako skinless shark fillet, 1/2 in. thick (swordfish, halibut, or any firm white fish can be substituted)

1/2 tsp. parsley (chopped)

1/2 tsp. cilantro (chopped)

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. Ancho or mild chili powder

1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

8 fresh corn tortillas (Mexican style)

1 lime (juiced)

8 lime wedges (to garnish)


1/2 head of cabbage (Napa or Chinese, sliced finely)

1 jalapeno (sliced finely)

1 small onion (sliced finely)

1 tbsp. cilantro (chopped)

1 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 tbsp. sour cream

1/2 tbsp. Grey Poupon mustard

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1 lemon (juiced)

1. For tacos: Cut fillet into sixteen 3-inch strips. Place them in a bowl with all taco ingredients (except tortillas) and marinate for at least a 1/2 hour. Put grill on med-high heat and coat it with vegetable oil. Grill fish for about 2 minutes on each side; it should be firm to touch, but not hard. When cooked, reserve in warm place. Grill tortillas for 30 seconds on each side. Place 2 tortillas on each plate. Add 1 tablespoon of coleslaw per taco and 2 strips of grilled fish. Garnish with lime wedges. Enhance with guacamole on the side. 2. For slaw: Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before preparing tacos, stirring occasionally.

Masa Southwest Bar and Grill, 350 Cambridge Rd., #A, Woburn, 781-938-8886; recipe from Philip Aviles, chef and owner.

Brownies: Espresso Brownies: serves 4

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate

8 tbsp. butter

3/4 tsp. espresso powder

3 lg. eggs

11/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. Kahlua

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 8″x 8″ square pan. 2. Melt unsweetened chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a double boiler. Whisk until smooth, cool for 5 minutes. 3. Place sugar in a mixing bowl, pour chocolate mixture over sugar and beat with electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla and Kahlua.  Add flour and chocolate chips. Mix until combined, (don’t over mix). Spread mixture evenly in pan. 4. Bake 25 minutes. Tester inserted in the center should have moist crumbs (don’t over bake). Let set before cutting.

Periwinkles Food Shoppe, 540 B Loring Avenue, 978-825-0099; recipe from Ann Steriti, chef and owner.

Chocolate Milk: Chocolate Rascal: makes 1 drink

1 oz. Godiva chocolate liqueur

1 oz. dark crème de cacao

3/4 oz. Cointreau

11/2 oz. light cream (or whole milk)

1/4 c. Nestle’s dark chocolate chips

1/2 orange slice

Pinch of nutmeg

1. Melt Nestle’s dark chocolate chips and pour into shallow bowl. Dip the rim of a martini glass into chocolate. Remove and refrigerate. 2. In a cocktail shaker, add ice and all ingredients. Optional: add a dash of chocolate (or regular) vodka. Shake and strain into chocolate-rimmed chilled glass. 3. Add half an orange slice on rim for color. Sprinkle small pinch of nutmeg on top just before serving.

The Grapevine, 26 Congress St., Salem, 978-745-9335; recipe from Stacey Fraser, chef and owner.