Norman Boucher, '85

DATE: Thursday, April 28, 2016

AUTHOR: Ronni Gordon

"HCC taught me to read a recipe and adjust it. If you don't know how to read a recipe, you'll never succeed."

Norman Boucher standing in a kitchen

Make one cup of soup based on a recipe for three gallons: That assignment in a Culinary Arts class at HCC taught 1985 graduate Norman Boucher a skill he has used throughout his food service career.    

"I learned to read a recipe and adjust it," he said. "If you don't know how to read a recipe, you'll never succeed."  

On a Tuesday morning in December, Boucher was busy supervising 10 seniors at Chicopee Comprehensive High School as they prepared food to serve to faculty and students in the school's restaurant. A recipe for spinach salad for four lay on a stainless steel counter in the kitchen. The students would need to prepare it for 200.  

A Culinary Arts instructor at the school since 2007, Boucher laid out the plan for the morning. They would need to fill 180 cream puffs and make 100 more. Their jobs included partially steaming broccoli, warming up cheese sauce in a double burner, stuffing chicken breasts, and applying brown sugar and cloves to large hams.  

"You have to work smart," he told them. "Employers will see if you're wasting your motion. I don't like to see people doing anything aimlessly."  

Like many chefs, Boucher started his career washing dishes. His first job was at Vincent's Steak House when he was still a teenager at Cathedral High School. He slowly moved up the ranks.

"I couldn't believe they were paying me to work with this good food," he said.  

At 22, he went to work for Grace Food Services of Springfield. The owner, Gregory Contos, taught hospitality management at HCC, and paid for Boucher's classes.

"I learned how to cost food and how to price menus," he said. "If you learn the management end of the business, you can get better jobs."  

He worked at Springfield College from 1987 to 2001 as food production manager and later food service director. In 1996, the American Culinary Federation certified him as an executive chef.

"It stepped me up again to a whole new level," he said. "Sauces, carving prime rib, sautéing – I can show you anything."  

In 2004, Boucher and partner Hubert Gottschlicht opened the Munich House restaurant in Chicopee. He sold his shares in 2007 and was offered the teaching job at Chicopee Comp.  

"You need to do the same things as running a restaurant," he said. "The difference is that it's students, not employees. You can send them to the office, but you can't fire them."