Nashoba Tech students, from left, Conner Eldridge (junior, Littleton), Sarah Murray (junior, Pepperell), Meghan Bourassa (freshman, Shirley), Zachary Hughes (freshman, Ayer) and Gabrielle Hathaway (junior, Ayer) hold desserts that diners at Dolce Wood Fired Italian Grille in Pepperell will be able to enjoy. The desserts are, from left, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Brownie Torte Delight, Peanut Butter Cheesecake and Coconut Cake.
WESTFORD -- Nashoba Valley Technical High School just landed a pretty sweet gig.
Nashoba Tech's award-winning, in-school restaurant, The Elegant Chef, which is staffed by instructors and students in culinary arts and hotel & restaurant management programs, is now producing desserts for Dolce Wood Fired Italian Grille, a restaurant that opened in 2012 at 105 Main St., Pepperell.
It's a feather in the cap for first-year chef-instructor Carley Engle, who was hired by Nashoba Tech in September to add a baking component to culinary arts.
Engle said the chance to bake desserts for a popular restaurant in the school's district is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for kids who are interested in a culinary career.
"It's good for the students to practice consistency, and it's an opportunity to further their education in the baking arts," Engle said.
Nashoba Tech has started out by providing what Engle is calling Dolce's brownie torte delight, but will soon add such options as peanut butter cheesecake, red velvet cheesecake and coconut cake.
Longtime chef-instructor Steve Whiting said the chance to provide desserts for Dolce diners sprung from the hiring of Engle.
"It's an exciting opportunity for Carley to showcase the talents she learned at Johnson & Wales and to help motivate the students from doing everyday desserts to specialty desserts, and enhancing their baking, decorating and marketing skills," Whiting said.
Jessica Halloran, marketing manager for The Catalano Companies of Harvard, which owns Dolce Wood Fired Italian Grille and several Dunkin' Donuts, including franchises in Groton, Pepperell, Shirley and Townsend, had the idea for Dolce using desserts baked at Nashoba Tech.
Halloran's son, Rowan, is a freshman in the Engineering Technlogy program at Nashoba Tech, and when she visited the school, she was impressed with all it has to offer.
"I thought this was a cool opportunity to reach out to the community," said Halloran, a Townsend resident.
Halloran said a placard on the tables in the restaurant will let diners know which dessert was baked by Nashoba Tech.
Halloran noted that in addition to the culinary arts and hotel & restaurant management programs at Nashoba Tech, Catalano is working with students and staff in the TV & media production program to produce several commercials for local cable access and various social-media websites.
"We want to be more community-oriented," she said, adding that Nashoba Tech could act as a kind of feeder system for Catalano.
"We're always looking for good people, and part of their curriculum is how to be a manager and how to serve people and all the responsibilities that go with that," she said. "I couldn't think of working with a better institution. They have a lot of good resources for tomorrow's workers."