Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futerman, two restauranteurs and chefs on the South Fork, have dedicated their time in the past few years to teaching students how to grow their own vegetables and the meaning of quality food.
Together, in 2008, they spearheaded the Springs Seedlings Project at the . This month, they are busy, not only working in their own kitchens and with about 650 students in the greenhouse at the school, but they are organizing the third annual "Empty Bowls" fundraiser scheduled for January. The money from the soup tasting benefit will raise money for Springs Seedlings. On Tuesday, there will be an informational meeting for interested volunteers at the Project MOST office on 811 Fireplace Road, East Hampton.
Realmuto and Futerman first decided to create Spring Seedlings while working with the Hayground School's "Young Chef's Program," a chef-lead workshop for young children where students also created an outdoor garden on the Bridgehampton campus.
"Joe has really been instrumental in organizing the program," said Arjun Achuthan, who runs the Culinary Arts program at the Hayground School. Realmuto is on his fifth year of bringing chefs into the classroom to teach the art of making sushi to baking. "We really feel indebted to Joe because he spends all this time on Young Chef's Program," Achuthan added.
Realmuto recalled how he and Futerman realized that while they were doing a lot of work for Hayground, their own children back in the public school system in Springs, weren't invovled. So, they decided it was time to start a program there.
They raised $60,000 privately for Springs Seedlings in 2008, a testement to Realmuto's connection, Futerman said. "It doesn't hurt that Joe has a lot of great friends. We couldn't have done it without the community," he added. The donations funded the construction of a 20-by-50 foot green house and a 20-by-60 foot outdoor garden at the Springs School. Construction was completed in 2009. A great deal of the work on the project was done free of charge because the community, from plumbers to builders, donated their time and resources.
Project MOST, a not-for-profit after-school program, helped with creating the program, but Tim Bryden, a director at Project MOST and a teacher at Springs School?, said, "Bryan and Joe are the creative and dynamic force behind the dream. They do the hard work behind the scenes."
He said Springs Seedlings integrates student curriculum and the green house by growing food that accompanies what the students are being taught. For instance, if they are learning about ancient Egypt, they will harvest wheat in the greenhouse since wheat was a staple then. They eventually learn to cook it.
Bryden remarked on the pair's deep appreciation for food and how that is passed down to the student. "They really respect food and the planet that we live on."
Futerman and Realmuto are involved with the project in the off-season, even when they are not tending to their busy restaurants.
Futerman is the chef and owner of Foody's, a wood fire pizza joint in Water Mill. Realmuto is the executive chef at the critically acclaimed , , , and Townline BBQ. At Nick & Toni's, he runs a one-acre organic garden. Vegetables goes straight from the garden to the plate.