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Chef “Bobo” - Robert Surles This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


     Chef Bobo - an unusual name,
you say?Well, he’s an unusual man. Christened as such by a good friend, the name stuck and
reflects his goal of having fun in the kitchen. As executive chef of my private school’s
kitchen, he’s always busy planning meals and really cares about our nutrition and
health. Chef Bobo is so dedicated to the idea that food is fun and that cooking can provide a time
for families to spend together, he’s even written Chef Bobo’s Good Food Cookbook
available on Amazon. com.

Chef Bobo has said that he believes the kitchen is the
center of community in the home, and recently, he expanded that by making the kitchen and his
creations the center of a larger community by planning a fund-raising dinner to help victims of
Hurricane Katrina. With a New Orleans theme, the dinner was a great success and reflected
the generosity of Chef Bobo.

Overall, do you feel the event was
a success? Financially and on a humanitarian level?

Both Chef Ilya and
I feel that the event was an amazing success. We put it together in just one week and were able to
bring in around 530 people. The actual intake was over $31, 000. When we started planning,
th eDirector of Development and External Affairs asked if I would be okay if only 100 people came. I
would have been quite happy with that, but the outpouring of support was so much more. We had people
there who had heard our interview on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” which was
broadcast the day before. Today I heard on NPR that during the first week after the disaster,
America’s Second Harvest (which is where we sent our money) distributed 10 million pounds
of food. That’s more than they normally do in seven months! They think they will have
to continue distributing food to people for two years. So, yes, we helped out both financially and in
a very big humanitarian way.

What will you remember from the

I will remember most the wonderful way the school community came
together from all sectors to pitch in and make this thing happen in the best possible way. Everyone
was so supportive and there was a tremendous, warm feeling of concern.

I found
myself crying a lot just from being touched so deeply by their kindness, and it felt okay to do so.
Everybody was part of this event, from parents, students and faculty to the development office,
friends and neighbors. Everyone came together and got the job

Was it challenging to prepare all the food for the
party? Which was your favorite?

Preparing the food was a big
challenge. And as we saw the number of people on the RSVP list increasing, we felt particularly
challenged because we wanted to be sure we had enough food. Plus, we knew there would be a lot of
walk-ins and we didn’t want to turn anyone away. We had really great helpf rom all the
chefs who work at the school, plus chef friends and one parent who is a chef.

also had ten students from the French Culinary Institute who volunteered to help. It was a lot of
work but also a lot of fun.

I thought all the dishes were really good. It was the
kind of food I want to eat when I go back to New Orleans. The gumbo was probably my

How can we continue
to help?

There are so many organizations and people in New Orleans who
will need support for a long time. The important thing is that we can’t let them think we
have forgotten what happened after this initial rush of support. I think our Upper
School’s “Concert for Katrina” is a wonderful idea and comes at a good
time. This is such a generous and sincere way of showing that we care.

are going to hear a lot of stories of need over the next few months, and we must be prepared to
respond in different ways, including writing letters to Congress to insist they get busy and help
all the people of the Gulf Coast. Or perhaps collecting items for schools in the area that
have little money. It would be nice if we could find ways to communicate directly with students there
in an ongoing effort to hear what they have to say and let them know how much we care about

Was this the largest group served on the school

It was certainly the biggest event since I’ve been
here and probably the largest ever. But keep in mind, we serve about 500 lunches every day, just not
all at once like we did at “A Taste of
New Orleans. ”

How are your friends and family doing
in New Orleans?

Most people are just now returning to their homes. They
are making decisions about whether to repair what’s left or tear it down and rebuild. Chef
Ilya was down there in early October to help his family sort through their belongings.

I think the people of New Orleans are overwhelmed right now but finding ways to
make things work. They are working hard now but hopefully by Mardi Gras, they’ll be able to
take a bit of a break and show their true grit by having a fun time for a couple of weeks during
their carnival season.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Mr. BOb said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 11:08 am:
He is so right that cooking is a good way to spend time with your family. That is really cool how he gets to cook the food for a private school.
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