Here's an update on our chef initiative, wherein we have a part time consulting chef working with me, the child nutrition services' Registered Dietitian, and our cafeteria managers in staff in two schools (see my previous blog post School Daze-Chef Partnership). One of the goals of the program is staff training, and yesterday afternoon we held our first Boot Camp.
We have planned a Boot Camp format - intensive, focused, small group, two hour workshops to teach specific skills that we have identified may be lacking. Yesterday, we started with an Iron Chef type cook-off for a little healthy competition, preparing our Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup. Following a standardized recipe, it was interesting to see how the three different dishes turned out. In the process, the chef covered knife skills, work simplification (she is FAST!), garnishing, and recipe modification to lower sodium content.
It was FUN! Team members commented, after already working a long day, "At first, I didn't want to come, but I had fun!"
We also prepared roasted sweet potatoes, the local farm to school veggie on our menu next week. Addressing one of the main barriers to farm to school success, prep time, the chef showed that the potatoes do not have to be peeled and that they can be quickly and roughly chopped. After tossing with oil and a little pre-chopped garlic from a jar and a little diced fresh rosemary from the school garden, they are much healthier than the typical mashed sweet potato, brown sugar and margarine dish. I personally found the local, freshly harvested potatoes naturally sweeter than what I've purchased in the grocery store. There were a few "aha" moments when some participants realized just how pleasant and perfect is that natural sweetness.
One team member even took home the fresh rosemary to try it at home. Success.