WESTFORD -- You can't cook without herbs.

And as Nashoba Valley Technical High School's award-winning, in-school restaurant, The Elegant Chef, prepares to reopen for the new school year on Tuesday, Sept. 11, students and staff will be able to prepare meals with herbs grown right on school property.

Chef-Instructor Steve Whiting and several students spent the summer building and planting a new herb garden outside the restaurant at the Westford school.

Money from the project came from a grant from the Westford Education Foundation. Whiting applied for the grant, a stipulation of which was that the money be used for an agricultural purpose. The school was awarded $3,000, which it spent on irrigation, planting soil, baby herbs, two industrial-sized food dryers and a wall around the garden.

Some of the herbs being grown include basil, tarragon, lavender, mint, lemongrass, sage, chives and thyme.

"It's a great teaching tool because the kids will have to be able to identify and use the herbs," Whiting said. "The herb garden helps kids buy into the program more, taking pride in what they're cooking and serving, and knowing that they helped grow the herbs that were used."

Whiting also plans to involve students in Nashoba Tech's banking/marketing/retail program by packaging the herbs to be sold and marketed in Nashoba Tech's store, the Viking Village Mall, which is next to the restaurant and open to the public, along with the brand-new branch of the Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank.

Also for sale will be Nashoba Tech-made dry rubs for chicken, pork and beef, made from the herbs grown in the herb garden.

The restaurant is coming off its fourth win in five years in the Best Entrée category of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce's annual Taste of the Nashoba Valley culinary competition.

Second-year Chef-Instructor Fran Zentgraf plans to add some new items to the menu, including his award-winning clam chowder and pork schnitzel from a recipe passed down through several generations of his family.

Nashoba Tech has hired a baking chef this year, Carley Engle, who will be teaching students how to bake cookies, cakes, cupcakes and other dessert items that will be for sale to the public.

The Elegant Chef is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, when school is in session, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations are not required, but if you want to make one, call 978-692-9958.