Tag Archives: school

Long over-due update

8 Jan

I know this update is long over due. It’s been over 2 months since I’ve delighted you all with the trails and tribulations of cooking for the kiddies. Mostly the excuses are poor, but know that I’m back on track and the stories will be new and tasty.

The past few months have been a roller coaster. I’ve seen days that were nothing more than sheer delight. Most recently, the menu was burger sliders, tater tots, veggie dippers and popsicles. You would have thought I was serving gold. I know it’s not much of a stretch to think that kids would like burgers, but these are surprising kids. They are used to frozen bubba burgers. Not only are frozen burgers shoemaker style, but they are expensive and tasteless. Let’s face it, if you are going to eat a burger, it might as well be an indulgence. There is absolutely no room in this world for burgers made from 97/3 ground beef.

I really had no idea how I was going to make the sliders. As with most of my menu planning, I start by coming up with items I know the kids will buy and then figure out the execution from there. Yes, this method has shot me in the food a few times, but it seems like the more logical approach of defining recipes and execution and then putting in on the menu, yields much lower lunch count. When the day came I had 320 orders. That means I needed to have (at minimum) 640 sliders prepped for lunch. I usually get some last minute additions and so I like to have some extras. The goal was to make 660 sliders. I wound up with 700. How did I manage? Well, instead of making 700 individual patties, I pressed my raw meat into a foil lined sheet pan and baked the whole thing at 350 for 15 minutes. Because the meat was so thin, it cook remarkably fast. I pulled the sheet pans from the oven and let the cool. Once I could handle the meat, I used a pizza wheel to cut the sheet of seasoned meat into small squares. I was able to get 70 slider squares out of each sheet pan. It was awesome. The kids loved them, there were plenty to go around, and each one went out hot and steamy. It was a red letter day!

But not every day can be a gold star kind of day. In fact most days are about a 6 or 7 out of 10. Even with the best intentions, sometimes you just can’t quite get to the goal. On Thursday of last week, I make pancakes, bacon and fruit salad. Sounds like a decent, balanced meal to me. I decided to make whole wheat pancakes to up the healthy factor and they tasted great. I was cracking these babies out. Every kid was to get 3 pancakes, 2 slices of bacon and a 1/2 cup of fruit salad. They could help themselves to the butter and syrup.

This was destined to be one of those days that wasn’t going to be good. I started making the pancakes at 8am and was still flipping well past 1pm. I had made 930+ pancakes and ran out half way through the 3rd lunch. It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough batter, or that my math was off, it was just that I couldn’t cook the pancakes fast enough. I have a 20″ x 20″ griddle that could fit 12-15 pancakes on it at one time. I added 2 sauté pans that each held 3 pancakes each. This helped, but not much. In the end I had to boil up ravioli for the last lunch. The kids were fine with it, but it was embarrassing. I know now that I have to cook some of them ahead of time and be prepared with back-up. Granted we had high numbers and the cost was really low, but my stress levels were really high.

This roller coaster job is crazy. It’s crazy fun, and crazy overwhelming. It’s extremely rewarding and extremely defeating. There are days I want to throw my apron up in the air in disgust, and days I want to hug every last kid that walks through the line. It is pretty amazing to me that I get to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to see what Monday brings.

Always thinking of the next meal



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