May is usually a great month for me; it’s my birthday, the weather is nice and comfortable, great produce is out from the farms and we begin to stock up on bulk production to take us into, yes, winter. Thus far, this May has been no different from last year. I celebrated a great birthday with great company and great food (at Tokyo Underground), the weather is amazing, and we just began making our big batches of tomato sauce this week for the first stages of freezing for fall and winter.
We also got a great visit this week from the folks at CentroNia Public charter schools. The chef and food service director came by our school to check us and talk shop.
It’s very hard for chefs, food service providers, etc to get time to visit others, to compare notes, to actually not be in reaction mode and work on making progress. But when they do, great things usually come of it. In our case, we came to a great plan. And I’m going to tell you about it!
CentrNia is a group of schools focusing on a Hispanic population in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, D.C. The chef there, also a female!, works with her kitchen staff of 5 to create breakfast and lunch programs that are delicious, healthy, and culturally comforting to those she feeds. She takes time to work, teach, and demo, just like I do, with her staff and her students to better educate them. She also works with a younger age group, starting at 3 years of age.
I have also overseen an operation with a daycare center. Let me tell you, feeding kids that early is a golden opportunity, as Jamie Oliver will tell you, to capture their palates, capture their association with food, health, and pure delicious tastes, to make them get the connection of how amazing food, real food, is. And when they have it, it’s theirs, it’s yours, and as long as you keep them on that track, their palates will PREFER that food to fast food. Chef Beatriz does just that and it’s something I commend her for.
But other than all of that work we do to feed kids better food, we came up with something a bit better……….cross training. No kitchen functions without acting as a team and the more the team players know how to help out the other players, the better your team is at …..WINNING! So, as Beatriz and I chatted we talked about our staff and how it would be great to have them kitchen swap. Have my big guys go over to her school and work with the Hispanic woman making tortillas from scratch; have them really understand a great salsa recipe. Then, have her folks over to our school and check out how we cook our collard greens, how we make panko breadcrumbs, and how we make our version of ranch dressing. It’s about the kids but it’s also about the staff. And without a great, strong, and open minded staff, you can’t make kids meals better and better. You can’t teach someone to care but you can sure teach someone when they have passion. I look forward to next month when we continue the learning and education of not just the children we feed, but the minds and hearts we work along side with everyday. Cheers!