Tag Archives: school food

Day one… Kitchen assessment

5 Oct

So today I started in my new position as executive chef at an elementary school. I was just in for paperwork and getting the lay of the land.

Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that things were in worse shape than I thought. The kitchen is in desperate need of a deep clean. It is shared with at least 5 other social groups. None of which seem to know how to clean. There was a light coating of stick grease over every surface. There were things that looked like they hadn’t been cleaned with actual cleaner or soap in years. Half of the kitchen had been claimed by the other various groups, leaving me with 3 or 4 drawers and cabinets to keep things in. There are 4 coolers and 2 freezers which is good. The dry storage area was sad at best. I took some time today to clean and organize the dry storage but it still needs work.

No one had ever created an inventory. I’ve inventoried the dry storage and I’m working on a standard inventory list. Everyone who is currently working in the kitchen seems to be content with the status quo. It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle.

The cooking areas are working, but are inconsistent. I was told by the current cook that sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Everyday is different and even though the ovens and stovetops are calibrated monthly, it doesn’t seem to matter.

There are so many things that need to happen that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m in the midst of a “to-do” list and a very long wish list of things that will make my life a lot easier.

I knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be easy. I guess I just wasn’t expecting what I found.

I’ll keep you all up to date on what’s going on. I’m still hopeful and feeling positive about what’s to come. Hopefully I can get things together without too much craziness.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Advertisements

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