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Chef Challenge comes to Chatham County school cafeterias

Posted Friday, April 15, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County Schools is a partner in an endeavor to highlight the skills of award-winning area chefs in helping school cafeteria staff create enticing menu items while staying within USDA regulations. The Abundance Foundation, Briar Chapel and area chefs have been working with the school district for months to make the Chatham County Chef Challenge a reality in school cafeterias across the county April 11-13.

“One of our current challenges is balancing healthy food that contains less preservatives and fats with food that appeals to the palates of our students. Through the partnership with successful local chefs, we can tap into their expertise using spices and flavor combinations that find that balance. We look forward to this spring’s Chatham County Chef Challenge and appreciate the opportunity to be one of the many partners in this endeavor,” explained Superintendent Robert Logan.

The participating chefs are Colin Bedford from Fearrington House, Jimmy Reale from Crossroads @ Carolina Inn, and Gregg Hamm and Kelly Taylor from the Natural Chef Culinary Program at Central Carolina Community College.

Each chef has created special recipes using the school's ingredients, USDA guidelines, and school equipment. From there, over three days the new creations will be served to the students. They get to vote on their favorite. On the final day local celebrities will make their favorite choice for the grand winner.

The menu items are:

Monday, April 11 - chicken nuggets versus Chef Gregg Hamm and Chef Kelly Taylor’s three cheese creamy pasta and a fruit bowl drizzled with chocolate

Tuesday, April 12 - nachos versus Chef Colin Bedford’s menu of macaroni and cheese with chicken and pepperoni in tomato sauce as well as a chocolate cake with fresh strawberries

Wednesday, April 13 – pizza versus Chef Jimmy Reale’s chicken fajita wrap, honey roasted carrots, green beans with marinated cherry tomatoes as well as a fresh berry parfait.

In preparation, on Wednesday, March 30, the chefs and school cafeteria staff worked on recipe details in a workshop in the culinary kitchen at the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community College.

On two Saturdays in March leading up to the Chef Challenge, Tami Schwerin of The Abundance Foundation invited students interested in the field of culinary arts to visit chefs at their restaurants and interview them. They learned about the demands and fast pace of their work, favorite foods of the chefs, education necessary to be a highly touted chef. The students were also able to tour kitchens and collaborate with the chefs in a cooking experience.

“We are thrilled about this project, increasing students’ nutrition and making it fun,” said Schwerin.

Claudi Viveros, a parent, later emailed Schwerin writing, “Noah and I wanted to thank you for creating a great opportunity for us to meet Colin, understand the goal of the Chatham Chef Challenge, learn more about the Abundance Foundation. Noah talked about his experience the whole remainder of the weekend with the rest of our family and gave me several hugs throughout the weekend thanking me for taking him to have this experience.”

The Chatham County Chef Challenge initiative has the following objectives:
1. Educate the students on the importance of making healthy lunch choices.
2. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables/fruits that are offered and consumed by the students.
3. Increase participation in the school lunch program.
4. Educate parents on the school lunch program and debunk current “myths” about the program.
5. Gain support and endorsement for the school lunch program in the greater Chatham County community.

 
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