By Katy Savage
Chef Bryan Gudelis doesn’t have any customers, but he hasn’t stopped cooking.
Gudelis, who owns The Garlic, an Italian restaurant on Killington Road in Killington, has been cooking free meals for Killington Elementary School students and their families since mid-March.
Gudelis makes anything from baked ziti to shepherd’s pie and beef stew. The meals are large enough to feed a family of five.
“I saw an opportunity where I could help some people,” Gudelis said.
After his restaurant was required to close to the public in March under the state’s guidelines to limit the spread of Covid-19, Gudelis reached out to the Killington Pico Area Association to see what he could do.
“At the beginning I needed people to feed and I didn’t know where to go,” said Gudelis. “[I said], find me a program, get me involved somewhere and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Gudelis, who has owned the Garlic for about seven years, is using leftover inventory from his restaurant to provide the free meals. He also ordered fresh produce to make garden salads with homemade dressing everyday to go with the main entree.
Gudelis said he makes 20-30 family-size meals a day. It takes about three hours for him to prepare the meals before people pick up the food at his restaurant Monday through Thursday from 4-5 p.m. Gudelis delivers the meals to people in their cars.
“A lot of the people we deal with from the elementary school are on the reduced or free breakfast or lunch program,” he said.
About 26% of students at Killington Elementary School receive free or reduced lunch, according to data from the Vermont Department of Education.
While school buildings are closed for the rest of the school year and students are learning remotely due to the coronavirus, school districts are required to provide daily meals to students that need it. Windsor Central Supervisory Union has been delivering one breakfast and one lunch to students who receive free and reduced meals each day of the school week.
KES Principal Mary Guggenberger said Gudelis is helping to fill any food-related gaps.
“Bryan…reached out to the Killington community and offered to cook meals for anyone in need, many of whom are KES families,” Guggenberger said.
Gudelis’ restaurant is usually open everyday year-round. He has a couple of staff members at his restaurant help prepare the meals.
“We’re hanging in there and looking forward to getting everything up and running again,” he said.