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.  

Pages

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

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.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

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.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

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.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources