‘Chef Flavor’ Stanton teaches kids to cook

Carl Stanton is a mountain of a man. But his presence — in the classroom and on the football field — is bigger. He’s going into this seventh year as the culinary teacher at Marathon Middle High School and he runs the “Pro Start” culinary program. He’s also the offensive and defensive line football coach for the Dolphins.

After a long career as a professional chef and caterer, he now teaches six classes a day, touching the lives of about 130 students on a daily basis. The students show off their proficiency about twice a month during the school year with dinners at the Dolphin Bistro on the second floor of the high school. The menu varies from dinner to dinner, and the students cook and serve up delicious meals.

Stanton first visited the Keys almost a decade ago, as a “guest chef” for a wine dinner hosted by George Patti, former owner of Taster’s Grill who currently operates M.E.A.T. It was at the dinner he met his predecessor who asked him if he might be interested in teaching in the Middle Keys.

He is married to Simone and has three daughters. Two are at Marathon High School and one has already graduated — Kaitlyn, 20, Khendra 15, and Adriana 13.

Yes, as it turns out. He was interested.

Do you have a nickname and who gave it to you? Chef Flavor. It came from a restaurant I worked at in D.C. It describes a style of cooking; it tastes like a chef made it.

What is the best and worst cooking show on TV? I like “Chopped” and “Knife Fight.” Probably the worst, because of what it exposes, is “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Did you mean to become a teacher? I had taught before — mostly adults — on basic cooking skills, how to entertain at home, I even taught a rehabilitation program for felons. And my grandfather was a college professor, and all of my aunts and uncles were teachers and principals and deans. So, had I ever thought about teaching? Um … no.

How would your students describe you? Funny and sarcastic.

Has there ever been a “disaster” in the Dolphin kitchen? Well, one time a student substituted salt for sugar in a batch of chocolate chip cookies. They looked perfect. I made all the students taste one as a lesson on the importance of following a recipe.

What have been your successes in the classroom? Three of my students who graduated in 2017 have gone on to culinary school — two at Johnson and Wales, and one at Culinary Institute of America. They still call me.

Who taught you how to cook? I grew up in the “DMV” area (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) where I was a chef and also had a catering company. I started in a culinary program in high school taught by John Dorney. I attended University of Maryland where I studied Restaurant and Hospitality management. My other mentors were Albert Uster and Rich Michner.

What about football? That’s the other love of my life. I played nose guard and defensive tackle in high school and at the University of Maryland.

Dream meal: you are sitting at a diner counter eating … what are you eating and who walks in and sits down next to you? Muhammad Ali and Eggs Benedict.

What is your nerdiest passion? Watching “Jeopardy.”

What is your favorite thing to do? Well, it sounds cheesy, but coming from a big metropolitan area … I just like to sit and watch the water, watch the sunset.

What’s your favorite saying? If you knew better, you’d do better.

Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.

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