11 April . 2011
Chef Challenge Training Day!
Starting Today! April 11, 12 & 13!
Last Wednesday, March 30th we gathered the 17 lunch Managers of each Chatham County School Cafeteria at the beautiful teaching kitchen of CCCC's Natural Chef Culinary Program. It was the perfect space for the Chefs to spread out and teach the menus they have spent weeks creating. The Managers will go back to their kitchens and cook these dishes on April 11, 12 and 13th for all of the county school children.
We began with Chef Colin Bedford of 5 diamond rated Fearrington House. Can I just say that Colin is quite the personality? Very tall, booming voice with an exceptionally charming english accent. Any type of trepidation that we thought the managers may have about this project melted away as they were entertained, laughing, tasting and learning about the new dishes he created for the children of Chatham County. The Managers are of course the experts in feeding hundreds of children in a short period of time. They know what kids will and will not eat. They even mentioned packaging makes a difference. If you put a healthy meal in it's own container rather than scooping it out of a pan, it makes a huge difference. They'll gobble it down. Colin cooked up his dishes and we all tasted, made remarks and the managers along with Nutrition Director Debbie McKenzie were trouble shooting. It's Debbie's job to make sure the USDA guidelines are being met and she spent many hours on breaking down the nutrition data for each Chef's menu. The school kitchens do not have all of the cooking equipment and seemingly simple items. Improvisation will be a big part of making the Chef Challenge a success on April 11, 12 and 13th which is showtime!
Next we brought in Chef Kelly Taylor and Chef Gregg Hamm who are collaborating on the dishes. They run the Natural Chef Culinary Program at CCCC, the first of it's kind in the country. They train culinary professionals on curriculum that focuses on local, seasonal food, holistic nutrition and partners with the Sustainable Agriculture program that is also the best in the country. Kelley and Gregg have the added advantage of institutional cooking. They know that feeding 8,000 kids a day is no easy feat and worked on streamlining their dishes while sneaking in added nutrition. Again, the lunch managers enjoyed their work and made suggestions on how to roll this out in April.
Our last Chef is Jimmy Reale of Carolina Crossroads Restaurant located in the historical and beautiful Carolina Inn. Jimmy's advantage besides being a wonderful and down to earth chef is that he has two small children and he knows exactly what they will and will not eat. His dish included orange zest and yummy grilled chicken along with an easy to make fruit parfait. Jimmy showed some easy shortcuts and different ways of making carrots and green beans taste delicious.
Shannon McSwiney of Briar Chapel, Beth McCullough of Chatham County Schools and myself were busy documenting the day and of course eating a lot. We are excitedly anticipating the upcoming April 11, 12 and 13th challenge coming up where the kids will be the final judges!
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