Chefs fuel learning with friendliness and food


Claire Hallaway

Chefs Eric Swedberg and Beth Valle enjoy cooking for the SPA community. “I really like how excited everyone is about the food,” Swedberg said.

Almost every day, the chefs at St. Paul Academy and Summit School work hard to prepare and serve a nutritious meal for the students and faculty, many of whom are unaware of what goes on in the kitchen.

One of the head chefs at SPA, Eric Swedberg said that his cooking experience at SPA and elsewhere has shaped his perspective on life. “Being in a kitchen and trying to make food for kids every day takes a lot of coordination and focus.  You have to meet certain goals within a precise time frame,” Swedberg said.

“Being goal—orientated and having things mapped out in front of you is important for cooking and being spontaneous. I like having a plan [as well as] trying to accomplish certain things in a certain amount of time,” Swedberg said.

I really like how excited everyone is about the food [being] served

— Eric Swedberg

Chef  Beth Valle agreed that her position as a chef has changed her perspective and taught her plenty more that goes beyond the kitchen.

“Feeding people is really important,” Valle said, “you really can not function without food, and we as cooks can help to fuel education.”   

The SPA community, the faculty and students make the job more fun for the cooks with interaction and all of the enthusiasm towards food.  The cooks are appreciative of the thank yous received as well as the excitement and enthusiasm towards the food cooked.  

“I really like how excited everyone is about the food [being] served—I get excited when I see that the kids get excited about the food,” Swedberg explained, “I also think it is really cool that the kids trust the food, even if it is new to them and they have not had it before.”

You really can not function without food, and we as cooks can help to fuel education.

— Beth Valle

The position of a chef is also unique at SPA, unlike most schools where cooking is institutional. At SPA, the job is a mix between culinary and institutional cooking.  The time frame for the food to be prepared and ready by lunch time highlights the institutional side of cooking, while the ways that the chefs are creative with meals and try new foods displays the culinary side of cooking for SPA.  

“The people are definitely my favorite part all-around.  I have learned a lot and I have really grown from the other workers, especially the head chefs and their input and creative ideas,” Valle said.  

The students and faculty can trust that the chefs are experienced and will serve good food. Swedberg has had a lot of experience with other jobs, even in different types of cooking.   

“I have worked in many culinary jobs; I went to culinary school for two years and after that I worked in hotels, restaurants, country clubs, as well as more of the institutional side of cooking,”  Swedberg said.