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Something’s Always Cooking at the Merrimack Friary

February 05, 2018
By day, Merrimack’s three full-time Augustinian priests serve God and their fellow man. By night, they serve one another … dinner.

From hearty lasagna to rustic chicken to grilled swordfish, enticing aromas are always emanating from Saint Ambrose Friary on Elm Street, home to Merrimack’s apostolate.

Until five years ago, the friary employed a cook. When she retired, the friars had an epiphany. Now, the friary’s six residents take turns cooking the evening meal.

As Father Rick Piatt explains, “We love to cook, we’re fairly good at it, so we said, ‘Let’s just cook for ourselves.’ That way, our time at home is our time with each other. There’s no other person in the house, no employee or staff person. It’s just us.”

Each friar has assumed a cooking persona that befits his personality and his Merrimack day job. For example, Piatt, director of the Rogers Center for the Arts, is the artist, improvising and injecting his personal touch into each creation. Father Raymond Dlugos, vice president for mission and ministry, is the administrator who efficiently and assiduously goes about his meal-preparation duties. And Father Stephen Curry, professor of practice and special assistant to the dean in the School of Education and Social Policy, is the pedagogist — he gets a kick out of showing others how to reimagine traditional dishes.

In addition to cooking for one another, the friars also enjoy hosting dinner guests and preparing meals for students on campus. Dlugos is renowned for whipping up homemade lasagna for groups of up to 40 on special occasions, such as reunions for Pellegrinaggio pilgrimage participants.

“It’s a great way to remind them of how good the food is in Italy compared to here,” he says with a wry smile. And while each of the friars has his favorite dish to prepare, they’re always looking to expand their repertoire.

“It’s important to keep learning new recipes and cuisines to add excitement to life,” says Curry, the youngest of 14 children, who, out of necessity, has been cooking from a young age. “And it’s always rewarding when I can integrate our Augustinian charism of community into the meal and share it with others.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Merrimack magazine.

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  • Proudly displaying their home-cooked meals are, from left, Father Stephen Curry, Father Rick Piatt and Father Raymond Dlugos.
    Proudly displaying their home-cooked meals are, from left, Father Stephen Curry, Father Rick Piatt and Father Raymond Dlugos.
    © Webb Chappell Photography 2017

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