Cooking… it’s elementary my dear

4 Oct

tuna meltsI think that kids are the hardest to cook for. They are mostly picky, finicky, and worst of all honest. If they don’t like what they are eating they make it very clear, with drama and sometimes tears. As a kid I was not picky. In fact, I loved everything. Yes, even brussels sprouts and lime beans. Tomorrow I starting my new position as executive chef at a elementary school. I’ll be cooking for 600 kids (K-8th grade), 75 teachers and faculty. This is no small feat. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Although I’m sure that the kids would love hot dogs and potato chips everyday, the menu will be far from the stereotype. As I am not the typical lunch lady (at least I don’t consider myself as such) the menu will be varied and colorful. I’m taking a cue from Jamie Oliver’s food revolution. The former kitchen lady chose to make frozen chimichangas and chicken strips. The old menu’s idea of vegetables was instant mashed potatoes and canned corn. (Just so we are clear, neither of them are vegetables.) My new menu will have fresh veggies everyday. Things like yogurt and fruit will be a staple. And lean meats will take over the nasty mystery meat burgers and frozen meatballs.

I do have hurdles. There is a lot of back stock. Before leaving, the woman before me made a huge order of canned soups, American cheese, frozen burgers and meatballs. I’ve also been told that the kitchen may not be up to health department standards. As far as I know there are wooden shelves in the food storage area and that the refrigerator is shared with any social group who needs to use the space. There are no locking storage areas to keep wandering hands out of the school’s kitchen’s tools. There are not enough tools for proper service. And, despite the school’s goal of going green, the holding pans are disposed of everyday.

My game plan is aggressive but professional. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing the kitchen for the first time. I’ll have a week to assess the immediate needs for change and to clean. (I’m sure that a hands and knees scrub will be necessary.) I’m not planning on changing everything, but it is pretty darn important that I at least get things up to code.

The menu changes will be rapid and exciting. I have to use up any food that was pre-ordered before I can order more. This is going to be challenging but important. The kids only pay $2.50 per lunch. Any profit that is made goes back into the school and trickled back into the kitchen. Eventually I’d love to have a salad bar for the kids, and I’ve applied for a grant through Whole Foods, but I have to keep my priorities in order.

The future menu includes mini tuna melts, BBQ chicken salad, Tomato Basil soup with grilled cheese and ultimate french bread pizza. I’m incorporating things like International day, where the recipes will be from all over the world and Celebrity chef day, where the recipe will be from Rachel Ray, Paula Deen or another “famous” person.

All in all I’m very excited. My posts will most likely reflect the experiences that come and I know the kiddies will let me know if they really like it or not.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

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3 Responses to “Cooking… it’s elementary my dear”

  1. Jen Vokoun October 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    I think that is really awesome that you are doing that! Good luck 🙂

  2. Diane Grant October 4, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Katie,
    Congratulations on your new job. I hope the kids will like your new ideas and I know they will be healthier. I did see Jamie Oliver’s struggle to give the kids healthy food and not frozen garbage. Keep us posted.

  3. karen October 4, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Hi! Love the adventure ahead of you! Great ideas!! Of course! Chef mickey will show up I am sure. Can you do spngebob? Wish I could help u scrub!!!

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