Schools are places of learning, and the cafeteria is no exception. With Flik Independent School Dining’s Traveling Flavors program, students fill their bellies—and brains—with international food and learning.
“We wanted to educate the kids outside the classroom without them knowing that they were being educated,” says Ray Mulligan, president of Flik Independent School Dining, about the program, which features food, decorations and educational material.
Of Flik’s 139 school accounts, about 100 participate in the Traveling Flavors program. Before really taking off, Mulligan says the program consisted of a van with the necessary supplies making stops at schools on Traveling Flavors day. Now, the program has become so expansive, regional chefs are in charge of implementing the program. The regional chefs get instructions from headquarters about how the Traveling Flavors station should be decorated and what the menu and ingredients will be. Using those instructions, the regional chefs go to each school in their region and, in conjunction with the staff at each school, execute the event.
Right out of the gate, the company knew it had a winner with the program, so there weren’t many challenges besides logistics. The biggest challenge had been consistency with each event, but now that one regional chef controls the events in his/her region, Mulligan says the program doesn’t get diluted like it used to when it was just a team in a van setting things up.
“When we first started [the program] we spent a lot of time and research on learning about authentic international foods. We’ve now spread out from just offering international foods. We’ve done events based on celebrity chefs around the United States, events based on different U.S. cities and one on street foods.”
The most popular Traveling Flavors program has been the one centered on celebrity chefs. For example, the program picked Bobby Flay for the event one semester and created a station around his cooking style and persona.
“It was so popular the schools started using [celebrity chef recipes] outside of the program as a monotony breaker,” Mulligan says. “They’ll serve celebrity chef recipes just any day of the year to drum up some excitement. There is a great deal of research done behind the scenes for all of the events.”
Mulligan says the program sets the gold standard by focusing on cutting-edge topics such as street foods and authentic ethnic flavors.
“Plus, the program includes not only authentic food, but it also features background music that matches the theme, educational pieces about the menu options, a raffle, decorations and posters,” Mulligan says. “We want to educate [students] and nurture them. I think Traveling Flavors does that to a very high degree by concentrating on what the hot trends of the day are.”
Flik Independent School Dining’s Traveling Flavors program represents the gold standard in non-commercial foodservice because:
• It brings international and regional flavors to more than 100 of Flik’s accounts twice a year
• On Traveling Flavors day, Flik’s regional chefs prepare a special menu of authentic foods. The menu is based either on food from one country or around a theme, such as street foods or recipes from a celebrity chef
• To further educate students, the Traveling Flavors station features decorations, games and music that complement the theme