Chatham County Chef Challenge

March 3, 2011 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

By Tami Schwerin

Chef Colin and Chef Jimmy with the Moncure School lunch team

What could be a better opportunity to promote local food, health and nutrition than the school lunch?  We are hearing more and more about the worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes.  School lunches are the perfect place to make a big impact.

Welcome to The Chatham County Chef Challenge in which we introduce three celebrity chefs to the ingredients, facilities, and nutritional guidelines of the iconic school lunch. Their assignment is to develop healthier menus using the same ingredients and guidelines and staying within budget.

Three Chefs have volunteered their time and expertise:  Colin Bedford of the Fearrington House Restaurant (North Carolina’s only official Five Star), Jimmy Reale of the Crossroads Restaurant at Carolina Inn (four star and four diamond restaurant),  and Steve Caldwell of the Natural Chefs Culinary Program at Central Carolina Community College, (first community college in the nation that offers a wholistic, sustainable culinary arts program).  They all have quality and local food in common.  Two have children….it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Chef Jimmy with the Northwood High School lunch team

The chefs must develop recipes and techniques to increase the amount of vegetables on the menu, and to raise awareness about the lunch program.  The menu needs to be quick and easy so that the lunch ladies can replicate the menu.

Debbie McKenzie, Child Nutrition Director, is leading the charge and organizing the different school lunch teams.  It’s her job to juggle getting the most nutrition in the lunches and keeping the budget of $1.00 per child.  I don’t envy her challenge.

We took the chefs to visit Northwood High School, Moncure School, and the brand new Pollard Middle School to give them a taste of what they would be working with.  There was a lot of enthusiasm from the school lunch teams.

After the chefs develop their new menus, the school lunch teams will serve them up over three days in April. Students will also have opportunities this month to interview the chefs at their restaurants.

We think The Chef Challenge is going to be a lot of fun.  It will give us a chance to learn about some of the myths and realities from behind the counter of our county’s largest food service organization.  And it will give Chatham County Schools some exposure to our mission of local food and sustainability. And of course we love working with the kids.

More to come!  Next steps are the menu creations, teaching the teams to create these for the 17 county schools and then implementation.  Can’t wait to see what unfolds!

–Tami Schwerin is executive director of the Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro.

Entry filed under: School Lunch, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized, Whole Food/ Locavore Eateries. Tags: , , , , , .

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