Chefs who make a difference

These 10 chefs are influential not only in their operations but their communities as well.

Thomas Sacksteder
Executive Chef
Gunderson healthcare
La Crosse, Wis.

Why Chef Thomas?
According to Kerry Johnson, school nutrition director for the School District of Onalaska, Wis.:

“In addition to his duties at the hospital, Chef Thomas has made numerous contributions to communities in La Crosse County. As the chef for the countywide Farm to School Program, Chef Thomas has impacted more students than I can mention. He holds student cooking classes and presentations at local elementary schools to encourage students to try new foods and consume more fruits and vegetables. This year, classes were held in West Salem, Bangor, La Crosse, Holmen and Onalaska schools, all of which have several sites and classes. His enthusiasm is contagious for staff and students alike, and he has left an impression on many to strive to eat healthier and live a better life. In addition, when the school year ended this year, students in our county went home with The Chef Thomas Bean Challenge. This is a package of beans and instructions for students to grow their own plants over the summer and come back to school in the fall with a photo, paper or any presentation about their experience. Chef Thomas is an amazing chef, community member, and mentor for children and adults in our area.”

More From FoodService Director

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We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

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I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

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This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

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FSD Resources