Seabury Hall’s Gustavo Neckelmann: The man behind the food

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Hannah Sheveland

Gustavo Neckelmann works hards each day in Seabury Hall's kitchen to prepare food for the school's student, faculty, and staff.

Hannah Sheveland, Staff Writer

The smells of mouthwatering spices, toasted bread, and home-cooked meals rise to meet you as you make your way to the Seabury Hall kitchen. Once you reach the kitchen where the exquisite smell was coming from, you’re greeted by tasty looking meals and have the sudden urge to fill your plate. Sometimes you even see a man standing by the food with a warm generous smile on his face, soaking up the energy of the food and happy smiles of children as they take in the delicious food prepared just for them.

The man in the kitchen is Gustavo Neckelmann. Neckelmann was born in Chile in 1947. In 1964, he moved to California with his family when his father got a job. Neckelmann has been working in restaurants all of his life and decided to learn how to cook when he started managing hotels and realized that “when you run a business you have to know the whole aspect of the business.”

He moved to Maui in 2001 to be with his family. Once Neckelmann moved to Maui for his children and grandchildren, he started looking for a job in the newspaper and saw that Seabury Hall was looking for someone to become the new head of the kitchen. He applied and got the job and has been working at Seabury for fifteen years now.

When Neckelmann first started working at Seabury the kitchen was not at all like it is today. The kitchen was not in as good of shape and there was no deli or salad bar. Kathy Middleton, a history teacher in the upper school, described the old kitchen as being “not a happy place to be.”

Neckelmann had to deal with getting the kitchen clean and had to deal with some past kitchen employes who weren’t very happy with the changes being made. However, once the kitchen was cleaned, Neckelmann and his staff had no trouble cooking for more than four hundred people a day. “Gus was like a breath of fresh air coming in,” Middleton said.

From the loud singing, laughter, and music that comes from the kitchen anybody who goes to Seabury or has been to Seabury knows that the staff is close. Neckelmann describes himself and his kitchen staff as somewhat like a family. He said that they support each other through hard times, and take care of each other.

In Neckelmann’s spare time, he loves hanging out with his grandchildren or spending time with his cat, Shaka, or his dog, Tony. He also enjoys cooking Italian food. Even though it takes a while to make, he enjoys the sauce and flavors. Even though Neckelmann originally moved to Maui for his children and grandchildren he loves Maui’s environment and tranquility as well as Seabury’s atmosphere.

Neckelmann enjoys constantly challenging himself to come up with new tasty ideas to keep the students and faculty healthy. He believes that “if you’re going to do something, do it right, do it tasty, and that when you cook, you have to put effort into it and cook like your cooking for yourself.” For Neckelmann, the job isn’t about money but is actually about seeing smiles and feeling rewarded on the inside. “I enjoy making dishes that kids like and seeing happy faces,” he said.

Neckelmann stresses the importance of keeping everybody pleased, and from his dedication to his work, it’s definitely clear that he practices what he preaches. “It comes from his heart and his desire to feed the students healthy good food that they enjoy,” Middleton said. All you have to do is taste his spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, or mochiko chicken to realize he really does work hard to put the kids first.