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

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources