Restaurant chef brings cajun cuisine to school lunch

Chefs Move to Schools partnership brings new flavors to students.

Feb. 14—Chef Charles Gilliam, owner of  Okra’s Louisiana Bistro in old town Manassas, thought developing a menu for school students would be a piece of cake. But things were a little harder than he expected.

“They have a tight budget they have to work with, and unfortunately they have really, really tight restrictions for what they’re able to do to put together the food for the kids,” Gilliam said.

But Gilliam hasn’t given up. He’s been working with the school system since last year as part of First lady Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools” program, which is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help chefs partner with schools to create healthy meals. On Friday, Gilliam introduced the first menu item of red beans and rice, maquechoux and corn bread to the students at Metz Middle School, with much success.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources