Hundreds of students wearing chef’s hats filled the auditorium of Edgewater High School, Orlando, Fla., Jan. 28, 2011, and watched classmates, school foodservice managers and volunteer chefs demonstrate new “chef-inspired, kid-approved” recipes that will debut in Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) cafeterias this year.
Among the volunteers taking the stage to work with students were six American Culinary Federation (ACF) members—Ed Colleran, Marcos Colon, Bryan Frick, CEC, AAC, Steven Jayson, CEC, AAC, Gary Jones and Chris Skolmutch. Chefs began working with 15 elementary, middle and high schools in September 2010 in a Chefs Move to Schools pilot program, nine schools participated in Friday’s event. The Chefs Move to Schools program is part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, and calls on chefs to work with local school districts to find creative ways to offer healthier menu items. OCPS, the nation’s 10th largest school district, was selected to host a national pilot program.

“Here today is the greatest model I’ve seen yet,” said Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and food initiative coordinator. “This is exactly what it [the Chefs Move to Schools program] is all about. It’s more than I dreamed—young people taking ownership and taking leadership in accomplishing the first lady’s goals.”

After an “Iron Chef”-style opening, with music, fog and plenty of excitement, two groups of students took the stage to debut healthier lunch items—including pizza rolls with a spinach tortilla, hummus, marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and crushed red peppers, and fish tacos with tilapia, shredded carrots, red and green cabbage, bok choy and avocado in a whole-grain tortilla. Chefs and foodservice managers collaborated to create healthier recipes that students would enjoy. Kass told students that for the recipes demonstrated to be successful, they must urge their classmates and friends to try new foods.

Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary, food, nutrition and consumer services, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), also attended the event to congratulate the district on its progress. She noted that in school cafeterias, recipes must be fast, easy and able to be prepared in large quantities.

Chefs from ACF, the International Corporate Chefs Association, Research Chefs Association and Women Chefs & Restaurateurs will continue to work with Orange County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services in 2011, and hope to debut the healthier menu items in more schools across the district.

To learn more about the Chefs Move to Schools program, click here.