THE RECIPE BOX - Local pastry chef pays it forward

THE RECIPE BOX - Local pastry chef pays it forward

WOONSOCKET – Roger Babson grew up in Needham, Mass., the oldest of six children in a blended family. “It was a wonderful town, a good childhood,” he said.

His family owned three restaurants (one at a time) that featured family-style dining and were located in Boston and New Hampshire. His family name is associated with Babson College, family ancestors that came here in 1634, he shared.

Around the age of 14, he began working in the family business, he worked at all three restaurants over time, and he said, “The only way to get out of the work was to be in a sport.”

But all this culinary training has proven to provide a good living for Roger, now an accomplished chef who during the mid-90s took an interest in becoming a pastry chef. The motivation was simple, he said. His wife at the time asked if there was any way he could work a more “normal” work week – not the weekends, nights and holidays of a savory chef – and he figured the pastry chef was the only position without a salary cap.

He took on an internship at the oldest four-star French restaurant on the Cape named Chillingsworth, in Brewster Mass. He said they’d lost their imported pastry chef from France and were in a predicament so they offered an internship to the first person who could last two weeks. He did, and as a result, Roger learned the fine art of pastry-making.

Being accustomed to rising at 3 a.m. from years at restaurant jobs, today his schedule allows him to rise and start baking. Twelve years ago he bought property in Florida where he now owns a fruit tree farm and bakery named Yellow Ribbon Farm and Bakery.

He learned early on that the way to get to know people in your neighborhood – especially in the South – was to become involved in the community.

“Since I was up anyway, I’d make cinnamon rolls then drive around and give them out to homeless people,” he said. “Anyone out walking around at 5 a.m. in Florida, well, the chances are that they are homeless,” he said.

His bakery is near the Eglin Air Force Base and so he became involved in doing more charitable work for women and children of U.S. Military.

“I didn’t know anybody (when he first moved to Florida) but bringing bakery items to churches, I started meeting people,” Roger said. Ultimately, the acquaintances and kind works came back to him in the way of word-of-mouth customers, he said. Soon people were coming to his bakery when they had an occasion to buy products from him.

The idea for his giving now has a name, Thunderhearts, and a four-day-stay on Facebook just before the holidays saw him have more than 2000 likes. Roger gave out 300 cinnamon buns in the Wooonsocket area on Christmas Day and encouraged his Facebook friends to “pay-it-forward” as well.

His hope is that charity will go forward and those people who do nice things for others, i.e. the guy that drives seniors to the grocery store or to the hospital for medical treatments, will get a charitable donation from the local bookstore, or restaurant.

It’s about building community and giving back when you can to others in need while also acknowledging the good things people are doing with a small token of appreciation. “Take it to the next step,” Roger said.

His hope is to focus on children, and teach them how to give it forward to make a difference. “If you can’t get it there, you can’t get it anywhere,” he said. “The more programs, the better.”

For now, Roger works a summer job for Wolfoods, as chef for a Jewish summer camp in the Berkshires. He lives in Florida part of the year and also resides in Woonsocket in an old restored church.

This week’s Spinach and Roasted Tomato Torte recipe was an original idea of Roger’s and the colors and perfectly lined up veggies are a work of art in their own right. This could be used as a vegetarian meal, or slice it small and enjoy as an appetizer. Or even better, make a batch and drop it off for a friend!


Spinach and Roasted Tomato Torte

Ingredients:

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets
1 bag baby spinach
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 oz. coarsely chopped garlic
2 Lg. tomatoes
6 oz. pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 up extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Lay puff pastry out flat on a sheet pan and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Saute garlic in olive oil until brown, remove garlic, set aside. Leave oil in pan and add baby spinach, cook until just done. Remove from pan.

Slice each tomato into six wedges then saute in high heat until just shows color. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Crumble feta and toss with the spinach. Add salt & pepper.

Layer half of the spinach/feta mix on one sheet of pastry. Top with the second sheet of pastry and layer the remaining spinach/Feta mix on the top of second sheet.

Add the tomato, then add the kalamata olives, then top with the “set aside” garlic. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Chef ROGER BABSON, of Woonsocket displays an original recipe he named Spinach and Tomato Roasted Torte. It comes together easily and can be served as a light meal or an appetizer.