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08 March . 2012

The Chatham County Schools Chef Challenge

By Jenny Schnaak
The Abundance Foundation


On Leap Day, Chef Colin Bedford gazed at a table full of ingredients ranging from canned cling peaches and whole grain pasta, to local sweet potatoes and fresh spinach in efforts to plan a delicious, healthy meal. He was not designing a menu for his Chatham County restaurant, The Fearrington House, but a new lunch menu for the more than 8000 youth of Chatham County Public Schools.


The Abundance Foundation’s annual Chatham Chef Challenge brings high-profile chefs into schools to help create healthier school lunches in Chatham County Schools. The purpose of the Chef Challenge is to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by students in grades pre K-12 while supporting GAP-certified local farms when possible. This project also works toward the Abundance Foundation’s mission of bringing greater education and access to local food to all families.  To view the full article, click here.


Since last year was the first ever Chatham Chef Challenge, this year we hope the project makes an even greater impact.  To compliment the Chef Challenge with more learning opportunities for students and parents, teachers in all 17 schools will facilitate complementary classroom lessons promoting physical exercise and making healthier food choices.

Each chef or team is assigned a box of ingredients to create their recipe for a healthier school lunch. The menus designed by the chefs must be easy for the school cafeteria lunch teams to create and abide by the USDA requirements for the school lunch program.

Each chef partners with cafeteria managers, cafeteria staff, teachers and principals to bring greater awareness to each school this spring. The 4 recipes are cooked by the staff and served to the students in all 17 Chatham County Public Schools on the Chef Challenge Days, when over 8000 students have the opportunity to try the new lunch created by a superstar Chef with fresh and local ingredients. The students then take a survey to assess the Chef’s lunch. The recipes liked most by students permanently stay in rotation on the County’s school lunch menu.

Leading up to Chef Challenge Days, during the month of March the chefs meet with the Cafeteria Managers and staff for Training Day on their newly created recipes. The chefs and farmers also visit schools that choose to hold Chef Challenge Assembly. These school assemblies offer students the chance to meet the chefs and the farmers and understand where their food came from and how their meals were created.  Here is a sneak peek of things to come, so stay tuned for further details:



Who: Chef Colin of The Granary at Fearrington

Fresh Ingredients: Ground beef, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, Northern beans, peaches

Challenge Day: April 19, 2012


Who: Chef Hamm of CCCC’s Natural Chef Program

Fresh Ingredients: Diced chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, whole grain tortilla

Challenge Day: April 26, 2012


Who: Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32

Fresh Ingredients: Ground turkey, sweet potatoes, brown rice, black-eyed peas, blueberries

Challenge Day: May 3, 2012


Who: Larry Robinson, Cafeteria Manager of Chatham County Schools

Fresh Ingredients: Chicken, Pinto beans, sweet potatoes, strawberries, whole grain rolls

Challenge Day: May 10, 2012

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