Toronto schools enlist chef Susur Lee to lure back students

Celebrity chef working on making cafeterias a cool place to be.

Sept. 4—Star chef Susur Lee has an unusual new project in the works — he’s the gastronomy guru who will try to help Toronto’s unloved school cafeterias get their groove back.

This time, the demanding restaurateur will take his culinary cues largely from the teen diners being wooed in this new bid to make Toronto District School Board lunchrooms the hot spot for cool eats.

The long-range goal is to turn increasingly empty lunchrooms into bustling hubs where student-driven menus are cooked largely by student chefs who earn credits by feeding their friends food that’s both healthy and hip.

It’s a tall order. A year after new Ontario healthy school food rules began driving students off school property for lunch, the TDSB closed 32 cafeterias this summer because they were losing money. Suddenly a long-simmering union interest in sprucing up cafeterias caught fire and sparked a coalition keen to fight back, using students — and Susur — as their guide.