CIA Opens Kitchen to School Districts

Symposium gives child nutrition professionals hands-on menu development opportunities.

As schools look for ways to meet the new school meal regulations and to increase the amount of from-scratch items, menu development training is becoming increasingly important. In April, The Culinary Institute of America opened its kitchen to 14 school foodservice professionals from seven districts for the Getting Back to Your Roots Symposium, sponsored by Schwan’s Food Service. The three-day conference based at the CIA’s San Antonio campus focused on culinary development, with an emphasis on plate presentation and creating food for children’s palates. FSD talked with Mark Ainsworth, CEC, professor of culinary at the CIA and the architect of the symposium, about the conference and what attendees learned. 

The group poses for a shot at the CIA’s San Antonio campus. The districts each sent two representatives. The seven districts are: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cobb County School District in Georgia, Mesa Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Minneapolis Public Schools, San Diego Unified School District and Northside Independent School District in San Antonio.

“We wanted to get them out of their day-to-day and into a new environment to foster ideas,” Ainsworth says about the reasoning behind creating the symposium. “They need training to help them meet the new school regulations in creative ways, using cooking methods they use every day.”

Ainsworth says he wanted to create an environment where school foodservice professionals would gain new menu items without being in unfamiliar territory. Ainsworth spent two years working with schools, so he says he is familiar with the equipment constraints that most schools are dealing with. For that reason, he ensured participants at the conference were using equipment that can be found in most school kitchens.  


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