Will school lunchrooms be the next rock star venue for chefs?

More chefs are being hired in districts to help up the culinary ante of school food.

Dec. 16—Now that it is firmly established in our culture that cooking and being a chef are definitely hyper-cool, is there a chance that the long-unsung and often reviled school food service directors and their chefs have a chance at the kind of stardom that restaurant chefs have achieved? After all, they run the biggest restaurants in every city, sometimes serving the only meals in the day that some children receive.

Will the new, young, school food service directors become the rock stars of the 2020s, changing and leading the way we think about food? Why not? We’ve met some recently who have that effervescent star quality, that glitter in their eyes, that leads one to suspect they can accomplish just about anything they want to, and the main thing they want is to change the food that schoolchildren are offered and the way they are educated about it. How are the directors doing this? By increasing the freshness and flavors of the food they source and prepare.

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Ideas and Innovation
chicken dinner

For the last three years, we’ve hosted an event called Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. We sponsor the local chapter of Future Farmers of America to raise the chickens, and we have to arrange all the transporting from farms to the distributor, which keeps the birds in a freezer until we’re ready. We build hype by having students vote on the proprietary spice blend they would like on the chicken. It helps the nutrition team get involved in the educational process and showcase local food purchasing.

Ideas and Innovation
employees generation multicultural

We are no longer short staffed, ever. On a given day, missing two team members from a team of 50 would leave us 96% staffed. The actual choice of wording places a positive emphasis on those that did come to serve our guests and patients. We no longer use the phrase “short staffed”; this is a game-changer when we are challenging ourselves as culture facilitators or leaders.

Ideas and Innovation
food symbols allergens

To make safe food as accessible as possible for our guests with allergies, we are creating an allergen-friendly kitchen this summer. Students and community members will be able to use our mobile app to place orders for allergen-friendly food and pick them up at the central kitchen. The kitchen will also produce grab-and-go options that will be distributed across campus.

Ideas and Innovation
amazon prime delivery

About 90% of our students receive financial assistance and participate in our free and reduced-price meal program. But a number of students in our district study remotely due to circumstances such as chronic illness. In January, we hired a driver to deliver meals to students who aren’t able to step into our cafeteria each day.

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