Caption:  Jeffrey Moon of Shirley has his hands full with his favorite food – potatoes – as he plans his menu at Nashoba Tech’s award-winning restaurant, The Elegant Chef

Jeffrey Moon likes potatoes. He really, really likes them.

So when it came time for the Shirley resident, a senior in the Culinary Arts program at Nashoba Tech, to prepare a menu for the in-school restaurant, The Elegant Chef, as part of his senior project, spuds became the main ingredient.

Chef-Instructor Paul Wilson decided this year to standardize senior projects, requiring students to invent an eatery anywhere in the world and research a complete menu for the restaurant – from appetizer to dessert. Then, each senior becomes the head chef for The Elegant Chef for a week, divvying up jobs for their classmates to do and overseeing the preparation of their menu.

Jeffrey appropriately chose Montpelier, Vermont, as the setting for his bistro, The Moonlit Spud.

“I’ve always loved potatoes more than any other food, and since I love cooking so much, I thought I’d make my food stand all about potatoes,” he said.

Wilson wasn’t about to say see ya later to the tater.

“When Jeffrey told me his idea, I said, ‘OK, we can work within those guidelines,” Wilson said.

And while Jeffrey ran the kitchen, Wilson played a secondary role.

“He’s in charge. I’m a prep cook today,” Wilson said.

When school reopened in late August, Wilson was prepared to overhaul the idea of the senior project for seniors in Culinary Arts “to raise the expectation level of what a senior project should look like from our Culinary and Hospitality students as they end their high-school experience.”

In addition to inventing an establishment and choosing where in the world to place it, the students have to research: the demographics of the location (population, average income, etc.); the types of business entities (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.); and what type of service the establishment would provide (fast food, full service, etc.).

They then have to create a profit-and-loss statement that includes expected income and expenses, a menu, an organizational chart with classmates filling the roles of sous chef, line cooks, dishwashers and more, and a marketing plan.

Wilson felt the quality of senior projects had declined in recent years so over the summer he came up with the new format.

“The senior project should display an overview of what they have learned over three-and-a-half years,” he said. “And I wanted to help them jump-start the project before April, unlike in the past when they were waiting to start the project and then freaking out because they were overwhelmed. Most of them have claimed ownership of this and are proud to be serving their food.”

Jeffrey’s potato-stuffed menu includes a Peppery Beef and Potato Stew, Chili Cheese Fries, Loaded Baked Potato, Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Latkes with Steak and Eggs, and, of course, Sweet Potato Pie. As Jeffrey was bringing The Moonlit Spud to life, Matthew Blaisdell, a senior from Townsend, was planning his project, which was to be a food truck providing such brunch items as eggs and hash, crustless quiche, English muffin sandwiches with eggs and sausage or bacon, frappuccinos, doughnuts, croissants, bagels “and lots of other stuff.”

No word if potatoes are on his menu.

Matthew Blaisdell of Townsend is looking forward to his week in charge of the kitchen at Nashoba Tech’s award-winning restaurant, The Elegant Chef.