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Marilyn Hagerty: St. Michael's cheery chef mixes 'homemade anything'

The line moved along in an orderly fashion as fourth-graders from St. Michael's School picked up their lunch at midday. I was in line with Kamryn Buettner.

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The line moved along in an orderly fashion as fourth-graders from St. Michael's School picked up their lunch at midday. I was in line with Kamryn Buettner.

She's a fourth-grader at St. Mike's. She noticed I had visited Discovery School for lunch with a second-grader, Emerson Eastman. And she wrote a letter asking me to visit her school and meet Chef Liz Stempinski.

She said Chef Liz is an amazing cook and can make almost "homemade anything." And on my visit, I could see Kamryn was right.

On this November day, Chef Liz and assistant Carol Romero were serving up a very nice meal. There was chicken fettucine alfredo, Liz bread, vegetables, fruit, milk and salad bar. The students knew the noodles were from North Dakota. They were aware the red grapes came from California.

The fourth-graders are keeping track of where their food comes from. Most of the students at St. Mike's wear red or blue shirts and tan pants. They all are aware the school is marking its 100th anniversary this year.

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They go through the line in good order and finish their lunch quickly and rather quietly. Then, they are out on the playground.

I sat with a group of girls who ate with gusto. Chef Liz, who is in her second year at St. Mike's, seemed cheery. She said she gets 160 smiles and a lot of hugs every day.

"We serve many vegetables. Some of our parishioners donate them. And we have a grocery contract with U.S. Foods,'' she said.

There's also a breakfast menu at St. Michael's School. It includes milk, juice, toast, cereal, oatmeal and fruit. And the entree might be homemade muffins, pancakes, scrambled eggs with ham, yogurt and granola parfait or french toast sticks.

Chef Liz came to St. Mike's after working in restaurants and running her own restaurant. She calls her present job her blessing. She finds it more stress-free.

Since coming to St. Michael's, she has become the editor of a cookbook called "A Squire's Tale: From Cookbook to School History."

Sara Dudley is principal of St. Michael's School. And she says, "While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us."

Their favorite foods are knoephla and the dumplings. And as for manners, a couple of them that stand out are "don't scream across the tables" and "use forks and knives for spaghetti."

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St. Michael's School lunchroom

520 N. Sixth Street, Grand Forks

• Chef: Liz Stempiski.

• Report card: A big, bright room with tables and food home-cooked by a cheery chef. Good nutrition for 159 students and guests is the goal.

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