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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

CT School Pilots Healthy Lunch Program w/French Chef

Jan 28, 2011 04:06PM

Chef Alex Gunuey

“A votre santé,” is a toast in French meaning “to your health!” The aptly named Santé, a local catering company run by Chef Alex Gunuey and his wife, Amy Kalafa, has as its focus a goal to offer clients food that is simultaneously delicious and nutritious. Expanding that outreach to children early in life, the duo recently launched a pilot lunch program at Connecticut Friends School, a Quaker elementary school with campuses in Wilton and Norwalk. They provide lunch once a week to participating students and staff. Alex and Amy are Weston residents utilizing a commercial kitchen in Ridgefield to prepare nutrient-dense meals so children can enjoy expanding their palates, knowledge, and healthful eating habits.

 Chef Gunuey grew up in France as part of a family that was passionate about food, so he was introduced to the pleasures of the table and proper nutrition at a young age.

“My playgrounds were markets and farms. I was taught to select the best ingredients and respect the rhythm of the seasons to naturally sustain the body and mind.”

His mother, a kitchen gardener and fine cook, educated him in cuisine bourgeoise and pastry. From his stepfather, he learned the arts of hunting, butchering and charcuterie. Preparation for their Sunday gatherings began on Friday and turned into two days of “classes,” culminating in long, delectable communal meals at a table covered in fine linen and china.

 Gunuey also worked in restaurants preparing items from street food to haute cuisine and immigrated to the U.S. in 1980. Here he discovered even more about world cuisine, particularly Asian, Indian and Latin flavors and spices. In 1985, he and Amy established the first certified organic poultry and game bird farm on the East Coast: Animal Farm. They designed specialty birds, feeding them milk and rice to tenderize and refine the meat. Pheasant were flavored during their growth with aromatic herbs and berries. “Our unique products supplied the meccas of the food world in New York, including David Bouley, Grey Kunz, Jean George, Dean and Deluca's and Anthony Bourdain. The Farm also became a meeting place for our chef friends, its kitchen a place where we would experiment with the local products and the fowl from our barns and fields.”

 Both Santé partners have backgrounds in media and communications, as well, including co-producing the award-winning Two Angry Moms, about the need for healthier school lunches. A holistic health and nutrition counselor, and Kripalu yoga teacher, Kalafa is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker and editor who holds a Lectureship at Yale’s School of Medicine (and Psychiatry). Gunuey worked in French television news before becoming an editor and producer of food and health shows. His work has included music videos, independent features and documentaries, including one for Yoko Ono, and serving as a staff editor on the Emmy-winning Martha Stewart Living show. Trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of America, Gunuey says these experiences enabled close associations with some of the world’s best, most creative master cooks. Most recently, he served as broadcast producer and senior editor of the PBS series’, “Lidia's Family Table” and “Lidia's Italy.” Lidia Bastianich became a mentor, sharing the secrets of Italian cooking, which expanded his culinary education. This collaboration was celebrated by multiple Emmy nominations and winning the James Beard Award.

Santé was introduced by Gunuey and Kalafa in 2004, with the aim to source and showcase the best local and seasonal ingredients.

“From macaroni and cheese to complex haute cuisine fare, the principle is the same: whole food nourishes the body and mind, helping to achieve maximum potential in life.”

With Connecticut Friends School serving as their flagship endeavor, they now share their knowledge and experience by supplying quality ingredients to schools. With this program they hope to broaden education about the delights of food and nutritious eating, using their expertise to encourage healthy living.

 Most CFS students and faculty have chosen to participate in the lunch program. Menus have included items such as quinoa pasta with sauce made from locally grown tomatoes, turkey tacos with fresh homemade corn and black bean salsa, and vegetable lasagna with squash “noodles.” Chef Gunuey and Kalafa continue to evolve the program by incorporating student feedback in their menu planning. Based on a student’s request for Moroccan food, one of their current considerations is coordinating internationally-themed meals.

To contact Alex and Amy, call, or visit For information about Connecticut Friends School, visit