A former Freeport Middle School principal will be on familiar turf on Monday, May 11, when he teaches a grilling class for Regional School Unit 5 Adult and Community Education.

Chris Toy will show people how to master the art of grilling in “Maine Surf and Turf Shish Kebabs,” at Mast Landing School, at 6 p.m. The fee is $30. RSU 5 Adult Ed also is offering an excursion to Boston, called “A Tour of Chinese Art and Food in Boston with Chris Toy,” on May 9. Those taking the trip will learn all about the Asian Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts with an expert docent, explore Chinatown and enjoy some authentic Dim Sum. The trip will leave from Freeport High School at 8 a.m. and costs $110, which includes transportation on a coach bus.

Toy, 60, was principal of Freeport Middle School for 13 years, until 2003. Now living in Bath, he is a consultant and cooking instructor, and is affiliated with Stonewall Kitchen.

“Ten years ago I ‘repurposed’ myself and became an international educational consultant, working with educators on leadership and integrating technology for teaching and learning,” Toy said. “I’ve had fun traveling around the U.S., Canada, Asia and Africa. I also teach graduate education courses in Maine and New Hampshire. I’ve also enjoyed teaching cooking for over 30 years and have been able to do more teaching recently.”

Born in China, Toy was the first baby adopted out of Hong Kong through an international agreement between Great Britain, which controlled Hong Kong, and the United States back in the 1950s.

“I was adopted by a Chinese-American couple who were both serving in the U.S. Army during World War II,” he said. “After growing up in Quincy, Mass., I came to Maine in 1973 to attend Bowdoin College and pretty much ended up settling in Maine”

Toy and his wife, Joan, have thrree grown children, Cameron, Alex, and Lindsay.

When not teaching, Toy has worked for a couple of startup businesses. One is Maine Solar Solutions, designers and installers of solar electric panels and heat pumps. The other is BoomerTECH Adventures, which holds workshops to empower baby boomers and seniors to take charge of their digital devices.

“When I have time I volunteer on the board of the Maine College Circle where we provide college information and scholarships for underserved elementary students all across Maine,” Toy said. “From time to time I am a volunteer cook at the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Project in Brunswick.”

Toy answered questions regarding his revamped career, and grilling, for the Tri-Town Weekly.

Q: Tell us about your affiliation with Stonewall Kitchen, and how it has been of value to your culinary career.

A: I’ve been teaching cooking at the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York for several years. I’ve also taught at the Stonewall Kitchen Store in Portland. What’s so great about teaching for Stonewall Kitchen is the people. There is a wonderful crew of sous chefs and assistants to help do the prep work. There’s often over 30 guests in attendance. I prepare many of the recipes live and it really helps to have a team of professionals prepping, keeping everything moving along, and cleaning up after me.

Q: The RSU 5 workshop is entitled “Maine Surf and Turf Shish Kebabs.” How broad a topic is that, in terms of the food?

A: Shish kebab means skewered roasted meat and is attributed to the way Turkish tribal warriors prepared their meals by cutting up livestock and roasting pieces of meat over open fires after a battle. This method of cooking meat was also referred to in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Although the traditional meat is lamb, other meats, beef, pork, goat, and chicken are often used. Meaty fishes such as salmon, swordfish, tuna, scallops and shrimp are also used.

Q: Of course, people begin thinking more of grilling this time of year. But is it becoming more of a year-round thing? Do you do indoor grilling?

A: For me, grilling has always been a year-round activity. The heat, smell, and taste of winter grilling is a wonderful reminder of the summer months. Of course, when it’s too windy to grill outdoors I grill indoors using cast iron under the broiler.

Q: Do you prefer charcoal or gas?

A: I use gas and wood chips harvested from our own apple, beech and maple trees.

Q: You were principal at Freeport Middle School. What are some of your good memories of that experience, and of Freeport?

A: So many great memories of Freeport Middle School and the Freeport schools. The teachers and leadership of the Freeport schools always made decisions, even the hard ones, with the students first and foremost. Outside of Freeport the schools have a reputation for being student-centered. Every day I was principal I looked forward to greeting and helping students learn about things and about themselves. It was a great way to spend 13 years of my life.

Q: At what point did you navigate from teacher/principal/university instructor to consultant, presenter and cooking instructor, and what inspired that?

A: After over 20 years of being a teacher, assistant principal, and principal I heard myself giving the same advice to students and teachers – to be a lifelong learner. Try new things. Step out of your comfort zone. Around the same time, a group of colleagues from around the world were engaged in a conversation around the following question: “If you were assured of success, what audacious thing would you dare to do?” I wondered whether I could remain an educator outside the four walls of the school and decided to become an international consultant helping other schools to do what Maine’s middle schools had done with Angus King’s laptop project.

Chris Toy

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