Tag Archives: school lunch

Week One…Do and Do Not try this again!

17 Oct

“Woke up in the morning. Put on my new plastic glove. Served some re-heated salsbury steak
With a little slice of love. Got no clue what the chicken pot pie Is made of.
Just know everything’s doing fine Down here in Lunch Lady Land.”

So week one. I have to say that I had no idea how hard this job was going to be. This past week I was helped by the guy who was filling in for me over the past 5 weeks before I was able to move down. The weekly menu was: Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese, Chick-fil-a, Chicken Teriyaki with fried rice, and Baked Ziti. I was feeling pretty confident in my menu choice. I knew that I had made all of these dishes before and that they were all successful. There was no need for doubt, I had blind ambition and engine full of steam.

Monday- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. I thought this would be a piece of cake. Toast the sandwiches in the oven and make soup. I even took the sandwiches to a fun new place by using 1 slice of whole wheat bread and 1 slice of white bread. The soup was made from canned tomatoes, condensed tomato soup (only because I inherited some and needed to use it up), Italian herbs and spices, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and water. Since the soup was cooking for 4 hours I figured the water would simply stretch the canned tomatoes and not lessen the flavor too much. After I received my lunch count for the day I panicked. I wasn’t going to have enough soup for all the orders. My counterpart suggested I add more water to the soup to stretch it and then correct the seasonings as necessary. What choice did I have, I didn’t have anymore tomato product and there was no time to run out for more. I added water and corrected the seasoning. The flavor was actually very good. It was the texture that was off. The extra water made the soup too thin. It was more of a tomato broth than a tomato soup. At the time, I didn’t have a food processor, blender, or immersion blender so there was no incorporating air for added volume. I had no cornstarch, butter or flour to thicken it with. So it was served as is, along side of perfectly toasted cheese sandwiches. The kids said the soup was perfect for dipping and the grilled cheese was the best they ever had. Day One… 7 out of 10

Tuesday- Chick-fil-a Day. This day happens on the second Tuesday of every month. I provide chips, fruit and a dessert, and the fast food joint provides the chicken. It makes for an easy prep day for me. Although no one told me that I needed to provide the extras until the day before, it all turned out fine. Day 2… 9 out of 10

Wednesday- Chicken Teriyaki with Veggie Fried Rice. Ok so I was really excited about this day. It was a brand new menu item that the kids had never had before. The thought process was to bake the chicken in the oven and then serve with the fried rice. As a side I had orange slices and for dessert, fortune cookies. I was like a little kid at Christmas. Who wouldn’t be excited about this for lunch. Little did I know the horror that awaited me. I had marinated the chicken over night and it smelled awesome. I started cooking the rice and prepping the fruit. The chicken went in the oven and we were rocking and rolling. 35 minutes into the cooking process, the chicken still wasn’t cooked. I started to panic… This was only the first batch of 3 and the clock was ticking. I had finished the rice and it tasted delicious. I was stuck on the chicken. Everything else was on it’s way, but the chicken was no where near done! There is a flat top in the kitchen that had never been used by the school before. It’s always been used be the Knight’s of Columbus for their pancake breakfasts, so I figured it was my only option. I started throwing the chicken on the flattop and bada bing it was beautiful. The searing made the whole kitchen smell like ginger and sweet soy sauce. I was feeling better. What I didn’t realize was that the kids have the choice of what they want to eat at lunch. So, each kid gets the main dish from me but then can choose from the offered sides that are offered by the volunteers. The lesson here is that these kids don’t like rice. Not many of them took it, and some of them didn’t have oranges either. This left them with a lunch of chicken and cookies. I was heartbroken. I thought for sure this would be a huge hit, but alas, not so much. Day 3… 3 out of 10

Day 4- Baked Ziti. I knew the baked ziti would be a hit. My counterpart had made it the week before and the kids went gaga for it. My version was a little different and I was not offering garlic bread. I did offer instead the school’s first salad bar. I’ve applied for a grant through Whole Foods that would provide the school with a salad bar. I wanted to test out the theory of the bar before we had one and then the kids weren’t interested. Well, they LOVED it. Despite seeing 1 kid eat ranch dressing and bacon bits as his salad or the kid who only had plain pasta and and croutons on his plate, everyone seems to be eating veggies. This is a huge step in the right direction. Day 4… 9 out of 10

I’m not what to expect out of this next week. There are lots of new recipes and I’m not sure how the kids will react. I have vendor meetings and inventories to do. When I first got married I thought it was had cooking or 2 people. Little did I know 5 years later I’d be cooking for 300.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

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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