The October 18 issue of the SNA Smartbrief featured an article about schools in Anchorage, Alaska trying to strike a balance between “home-style” meals and long-standing “traditional fare.” Traditional fare is also known as processed food. What inspired the school to make these changes? Look no further than the new school lunch guidelines from the USDA that took effect on July 1, 2012. Among these mandates are increased servings of fruits and vegetables, minimums and maximums of grains and proteins and restrictions on calories. Some schools are struggling while some are succeeding. What should the answer be to how to increase participation and acceptance? I believe the answer is simple: Everything cooked from scratch or “home-style” as referred to in the article.
Cooking has become a lost art in several areas of food service, mostly in chain restaurants and institutional establishments. Why do so few chains and cafeterias produce all scratch cafeterias? Are they afraid of actually cooking? Do they not how to cook? What are the reasons? Those in the business, including me, recognize that labor and food costs are two of the primary obstacles to producing quality menu items. However, I do believe that with a highly trained, motivated and skilled workforce and quality ingredients, any establishment can produce a truly “home-style” menu.
As chefs and operators, it is our duty and responsibility to share our knowledge with others in the industry. I challenge those of you who know how to produce from scratch and those of you who rely on convenience foods to embrace each other and step outside your comfort zone. Chefs, get involved with our schools. Schools embrace our chefs and learn from them and with them. I encourage everyone to sign up for the Chefs Move to Schools Movement. This is not the same thing that bonehead Jaime Oliver tried to do in Los Angeles. If you want more information, visit http://www.chefsmovetoschools.org
Whether you call it fresh, home-style, or from scratch: LET’S BRING REAL FOOD BACK!